United Stated of America Ambassador to Cambodia, Patrick Murphy, emphasised the critical role of the digital economy in Cambodia and reaffirmed US commitment to supporting the country’s growth, advocating for an improved investment environment.
The second Digital Economy Forum in Siem Reap, supported by USAID, was held from August 22-23, 2023 and brought together regional business chambers, Cambodian government officials, and other leading experts.
During a conversation with reporters on the sidelines of his visit to Siem Reap for the forum, Ambassador Murphy emphasised the significance of the digital economy, not only for Cambodia, but also for other countries as it offers solutions to challenges related to conflict, food security, and climate change.
Regarding the Digital Economy Forum, he stated that it provided a platform to discuss how the digital economy can be enhanced by addressing concerns and challenges faced by participants in this sector.
The Ambassador acknowledged the distinctive strengths of both the public and private sectors and highlighted the essentiality of collaboration for establishing effective governance frameworks that balance prosperity, privacy, and fundamental human rights.
“That’s why this forum encourages public-private partnerships. Governments cannot do it alone, and the private sector cannot do it alone. We each have our own comparative advantages and strengths” he said.
The Ambassador also recognised the complexities and “uncharted territories” presented by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum programming. “These are issues that I don’t fully understand myself as a policymaker. That’s why I rely on the private sector to help explain them.”
Cambodia’s Trade With The United States
Encouraging the Cambodian government to maintain strong relations, Ambassador Murphy emphasised the need for Cambodia to have a thriving and robust export market. He added that now all countries are recovering from the global pandemic, including the revival of supply chains, reemployment, and tourism is kicking back into gear.
Murphy highlighted that the United States is now Cambodia’s largest export market, accounting for over 40 per cent of its exports. Cambodia’s exports to the US include textiles, travel goods, agricultural products, bicycles, and leisure items, all of which are manufactured and assembled in the country.
The Ambassador said that there would be an upcoming Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the US and the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts later in August 2023, focusing on protecting and restoring cultural heritage, which plays a significant role in attracting tourists.
United States Initiatives In Cambodia
In addition to trade, the US government provides assistance to Cambodia in various ways, including training and skills development for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and women.
Ambassador Murphy highlighted several US initiatives focused on training SMEs, empowering women entrepreneurs in the digital realm, and promoting digital literacy at universities in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and other parts of Cambodia. The objective is to equip individuals with information and gather feedback to support their development goals within the digital economy.
He also highlighted other US programs operating in Cambodia, such as technical vocational schools and English language training through programs like Peace Corps Volunteer, Fulbright Fellow, English Language Fellow, ACCESS programs, and other youth programs.
The Ambassador discussed the US-supported SPOON English Program in Siem Reap, which teaches English to students and helps them gain employment in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Additionally, the US also has a program in Ratanakiri province that focuses on vocational students studying various skills to improve their English language capabilities.
Improving The Investment Environment In Cambodia
Ambassador Murphy mentioned that Cambodia has introduced several important laws for businesses in recent years, including laws on taxation, customs, and the digital realm. However, he encouraged the Cambodian government to continue consulting with the private sector, learning from well-established companies worldwide, and ensuring the effective implementation of existing laws.
In terms of attracting more American investment, the Ambassador expressed his engagement with numerous startups in Cambodia and praised the country’s innovative and connected youth, particularly in the digital economy. Meanwhile, he said there is a growing desire among Cambodians to see more US companies, products, services, and investments in Cambodia.
The Ambassador emphasised the need for improvements in infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and ports, to make Cambodia an attractive market for American businesses and the importance of competitive basics. “Labour is very competitive in Cambodia, but the cost of electricity is not; it’s very high here,” he said.
Furthermore, the Ambassador stressed the importance of a strong rule of law and independent courts to protect American investments in Cambodia. The Ambassador hopes that with this the relationship between both countries will be strengthened in the future.
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