Taiwanese businesses looking to invest in Cambodia are seemingly unfazed by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s promise last month to block plans for a Taiwanese trade office in Phnom Penh in solidarity with Beijing.
During the fourth annual Taiwanese Trade Mission to Cambodia at the Intercontinental Hotel in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, representatives of Taiwanese companies specializing in industrial tools and small parts said they were undeterred by the close relationship between Cambodia and China.
“Business is one thing, politics is another. We are not worried about the political influence of China on Cambodia because business is business. I think Taiwanese businesses here are growing in number,” said Lin Horn-Tzer, the owner of fishing net-maker Forever Industries, at the event Tuesday.
Allen Yang, overseas representative for Unelectra International Corp., which manufactures transformers, said that despite strong Chinese-Cambodian ties, low labor costs in Cambodia and violence that flared up in Vietnam in May over a territorial dispute with China have made Cambodia a safe bet for future investment.
“We are afraid of setting up in Vietnam. One of our customers there was hiding in a hotel during the riots and we couldn’t get hold of him,” Mr. Yang said.
“There is nothing we can do about China’s politics. So we don’t worry about China’s presence here, we just need to care about selling our products and competing with them, especially in terms of product quality.”
Tuesday’s exhibition went ahead despite Mr. Hun Sen’s declaration during a Council of Ministers meeting on July 18 that the creation of a Taiwanese trade office would not be permitted, and an incident in 2010 during which Cambodian government officials removed Taiwanese flags from a business conference on the prime minister’s orders.
China last year invested $435.8 million in Cambodia, 23 percent of total approved foreign direct investment and more than any other country.
Larry Kao, vice chairman of the Taiwanese Commercial Association of Cambodia, said he heard the Chinese Embassy considered Tuesday’s event, organized by the Taiwan Trade Development Council, an affront to Mr. Hun Sen’s announcement and attempted to have it stopped, only later relenting.
“They [Chinese Embassy officials] understand this was strictly business, and it was people coming to deal with local trade people…. So there is no problem,” Mr. Kao said.
Cheng Hong Bo, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy, said he was unaware of any request by the embassy to stop the exhibition from going ahead.
“I don’t know about that. From my point of view, we didn’t make that demand…. The normal trade between Taiwan and Cambodia is OK,” he said.