The Cambodian prime minister’s visit to France in January 2024 has grabbed the headlines this past week, and although Dr. Hun Manet is now in Davos attending the 54th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, there is a lot to unpack in terms of business and economic news for the Kingdom.
This is the Cambodian PM’s first visit to Europe since taking office, but he will also become the first foreign leader to meet with the French president in 2024. More recently, King Norodom Sihamoni met with Macron at the Fourth Inter-Governmental Conference for the Safeguarding and Development of Angkor in Paris in November 2023.
Bilateral trade between France and the Kingdom in 2024 was worth USD $515 million which saw a 5 per cent decline compared to 2022. Key exports to France include garments, footwear, travel goods, and agricultural products, while notable imports from France were vehicles, electrical and electronic equipment, construction materials and furniture.
In the French capital in mid-January, a French-Cambodian Business Forum was hosted by MEDEF International at their headquarters and inaugurated and presided over by the Cambodian Prime Minister, with delegates from the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce and the CCE Cambodia – French Foreign Trade Advisors (Les Conseillers du Commerce extérieur de la France), CCI France Cambodge in attendance.
The Forum saw meetings with several Deputy Prime Ministers and Senior Ministers, with several Cambodian business representatives in tow. MEDEF is an international non-profit private-funded organisation representing the French private sector at an international level.
What Agreements Were Signed To Boost Cambodian Investment
An estimated more than 80 French companies, some of whom already are operating in Cambodia, were present from a range of sectors. But one of the main goals of this European expedition was to attract trade and investment, and Cambodia Prime Minister Dr. Hun Manet met with as many as a dozen French business leaders in B2G meetings. These included meetings with Total, Accor, Vinci, EDF, Alstom, Blue Circles, École 42 and Puy du Fou.
The Government Spokesperson Unit confirmed that in total, six memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed between Cambodian and French companies in France. These were between:
- Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and the Alliance des Patronats Francophones (APF)
- Royal Group and renewable energy firm Blue Circle
- Techo International Airport (TIA) and Lagardere Travel Retail
- Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation (OCIC) and Aloest Productions
- OCIC and Platform Impact Co Ltd
- LYP Group and SEMMARIS
Francophonie Summit 2026 – Will Cambodia Host?
An MOU between Cambodian and French companies was signed – the key document seeing Cambodia become an official member of the Alliance des Patronats Francophones. This will now help pave the way for Cambodia to host the Francophonie Summit in 2026.
French ambassador to Cambodia, Jacques Pellet, had said towards the end of 2023 that France would support Cambodia’s candidacy to host the Francophonie Summit in 2026.
In Paris, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), also expressed its support for Cambodia’s bid to host the Francophonie Summit in 2026..
If successful, it would be expected that the French President would visit Cambodia to attend the Summit.
The Blue Circle – French Wind Power
One of the leading firms operating wind power projects, The Blue Circle, is seeking to invest in Cambodia which aligns with Cambodia’s strategy to increase clean energy production. The Blue Circle is looking to generate 100 Megawatts, with a vision for future expansion in the Kingdom.
Olivier Duguet, chairman and CEO of Blue Circle met with the Cambodian PM to discuss suitable locations for projects such as Bokor Mountain and mountains in Mondulkiri province.
They are not the only French company with eyes on renewable energy in Cambodia, both TotalEnergies and Électricité de France (EDF) have also expressed interest in investing as the Kingdom targets 70 per cent clean energy production by 2030.
ACCOR Group – Hotel Operations In Cambodia
Hun Manet also met with Maud Bailly, Chief Executive Officer of Sofitel, MGallery& Emblems (part of ACCOR Group) about the mood and optimism of Cambodia’s tourism sector for 2024.
The international hotel group has been focussing on investing in modern and mid-range hotels and Bailly said, “ACCOR Group’s investments in Cambodia have not only contributed to the country’s economic growth but have also enhanced its image as a tourist destination. We are confident that the tourism sector in Cambodia will improve, and with initiatives like ‘Visit Siem Reap 2024,’ we believe that more tourists will be enticed to explore the wonders of Siem Reap,.
Alstom – Cambodian Rail Investment
Philippe Delleur, Senior Vice President of Alstom, which is an investment firm specialising in rail transportation and high-speed rail production, metro monorail and TRAM, made their intention known to the Cambodian PM of looking at investing in urban planning and transport links and a railway from Phnom Penh to the airport or other areas.
There have been several announcements, feasibility studies and renewed interest in developing the rail network, especially with the new Phnom Penh airport under construction and potentially due for operations by 2025.
Orange Group – ICT Investment
Emmanuel ROCHAS, a representative of Orange Group, met with the PM to explain their intentions to further invest in connecting ICT from Cambodia to other countries through submarine fibre optic cables.
The President of VINCI Airports, Nicolas Notebaert, met Prime Minister Dr. Hun Manet and praised the favourable conditions for investment in Cambodia, as well as VINCI’s business plans for potential future expansion in the Kingdom.
VINCI has been operating the Cambodian airports for many years.
‘Immersive Angkor’ 3D Museum – Siem Reap
Geoffroy Ladet, CEO of Puy du Fou Asia, who is part of a group trying to establish the first immersive museum in Cambodia, met with the PM who expressed enthusiasm for the project.
The planned Immersive Angkor Museum is worth keeping an eye on as the pandemic-delayed permanent museum is set to be developed in Siem Reap, featuring immersive 3D exhibits about the ancient Khmer empire and Khmer culture, the tourist attraction has been delayed by the pandemic.
Confluences, a local market access firm and Iconem, a digital creative studio, are also partners working on bringing this project to reality.
Volleyball MoU – Cambodia and France
Following the meetings in Europe, the Volleyball Federation of Cambodia (VFC) and the French FFVolley signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Cambodia with 9 key objectives which include the exchange of knowledge and skills and fostering new projects
Hun Manet – World Economic Forum 2024
The meetings in France will be followed by the pivotal meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland,
The 2024 WEF theme is “Rebuilding Trust”, and will be attended by over 100 governments, several hundred major international organisations and partner companies.
Dr. Hun Manet has already met with the CEOs of two private companies; John Serafini, Chief Executive Officer of HawkEye 360 Inc. which is looking to invest in Cambodia in geospatial information solutions, and Jane Sun, CEO of Trip.com Group Limited, as they look to partner to increase the number of tourists visiting Cambodia.
Agreements made in Davos, include:
- France will provide 200 million Euros to Cambodia to support vocational training, energy, and water treatment sectors.
- Hun Manet met with Yaël Braun-Pivet, president of the French National Assembly and proposed Cambodia be a possible French language hub, targeting a new French cultural centre to be established in the Kingdom.
The Cambodian Prime Minister is also due to visit Thailand in February 2024.
Find Out More About Cambodian Economic News