The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Cambodia has shown itself to be one of the most proactive chambers in the Kingdom. Be it participating in policy-making decisions or even promoting Cambodia in the States as the ideal place to be for businesses, AmCham has taken efforts above and beyond the call of duty to do so.
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2019 particularly was another year of active participation from AmCham and its members where the chamber of commerce held events every couple of weeks in an effort to familiarise its members with different industries and upcoming trends in Cambodia.
Identifying skills gaps
With a number of committees formed within the chamber, AmCham has pledged to collect, create and disseminate information to enhance and accelerate the development of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) industry in the country. It has done so with its Women’s Network Committee and has proven to be an excellent host with the agriculture delegation that visited Cambodia all the way from the States.
The chamber’s workforce development committee seeks to identify skills gaps among its member businesses and third party vendors while its Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Committee continues to shine a light on new upcoming talent and held discussions to further develop Cambodia’s growing ICT industry to support both SMEs and multinational companies (MNC).
Wrapping up 2019
“There has been a lot more outreach with the Royal Government of Cambodia this year. We had a session meeting with the parliament as well as signing a memorandum of understanding with the anti-corruption unit,” AmCham Chairman Allen Tan says.
He adds that the chamber’s efforts to build a stronger relationship with the government have helped to elevate its status into playing a bigger role for businesses across the country. The chamber has actively assisted businesses from the States looking to build a home in the Kingdom by referring it to the right opportunities as well as to resolve issues that have risen in the past which could impede their ability to enter and work successfully in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
“We have become relevant in so many spaces, for instance when it comes to real estate. The events held by our real estate committee has made AmCham an important figure in that space as well,” says Tan.
All said and done, 2019 for AmCham was the year of deepening opportunities for members and businesses alike to participate in discussions with both countries, the United States and Cambodia. Tan hopes to further bring discussions in relations to the offerings of business opportunities in Cambodia to the Congress in the States.
The AmCham chairman also expressed a desire for more participation in helping with policy-making decisions because the chamber was a part of the multi-chamber effort with the Ministry of Commerce in the seniority payment process for the garment industry.
He hopes as the relationship between the government and the chamber continues to show positive growth, there will be more collaboration between both sides to further grow policies for the business ecosystem.
Currently the chamber’s top priorities in the coming year are to increase the value of the agriculture sector in the Kingdom.
Tan believes that because the US is one of the top producers of food globally, US companies would be keener in investing in Cambodia if the agriculture sector is promoted attractively to the businesses.
“We have had some of the biggest food and beverage companies from America set up base here in Cambodia and Coca-Cola being one of them has shown success by being one of the single largest investment factories here,” says Tan.
Tan also adds that there has been increasing interest from their members to participate in deepening the collaborations between the government and the chamber when it comes to discussions on policy making decisions.
Another role Tan has expressed for the chamber to take on in 2020 would be to contribute more input on the implementation of the newly enacted e-commerce law because there are a number of US technology companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon providing services in the Kingdom.
Issues raised by members
Companies in Cambodia have often brought up the issue of lack of skills when it comes to human resources. The dilemma of the human resource issue has always been the top priority of the National Employment Agency, Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Education to come up with a way to resolve the matter between all parties concerned.
According to Tan, following the efforts of the other parties in tackling the issue, AmCham will soon introduce an AmCham academy model in 2020, a professional educational organisation to help emerging leaders in the business community as well as leaders from various business backgrounds.
“The academy model that will soon be introduced will consist of short courses led by different established leaders to help emerging entrepreneurs , be it from conglomerates or from smaller businesses,” Tan says.
Ambassador to business
With that in the pipeline, AmCham will also be stepping up further efforts as a consultant to promote Cambodia as an ideal business platform in the US.
“We will continue to help educate new companies on the risks and opportunities in the Kingdom,” Tan says, highlighting the chamber’s role as an ambassador to businesses.
Furthermore, the chairman of the chamber also expressed his optimism for the business ecosystem in the upcoming year.
While there have been talks on revoking the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), none has taken place and that is a positive sign, Tan points out because huge structural sanctions could prove to be of concern.
Earlier this year, US Congressmen Alan Lowenthal and Steve Chabot introduced the Cambodia Trade Act which sought to initiate a review of Cambodia’s status under the GSP.
AmCham had instead addressed the matter through a letter signed by Tan pointing out the counterproductive impact such a move could cause.
“I still think the potential for the relationship to advance in a positive way is there because businesses in both countries share a similar sentiment to progress together,” Tan says.