The United Kingdom Trade and Investment Office would establish a permanent branch in Phnom Penh in the expectation that economic ties between the two countries would continue to grow, Cambodian and UK officials said yesterday. Bilateral trade has risen by 300 per cent during the past five years and was worth about US$400 mill-ion in 2011, according to the British embassy in Phnom Penh. It increased by more than 40 per cent in the first quarter of 2012. The trade and investment office would produce market reports and assist in business registration, officials said.
Cambodia’s garment industry has traditionally attracted the biggest share of UK investment. Along with the trade-office announcement and a visit by Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan, Quantum Clothing, the UK’s largest company in Cambodia, opened its third garment factory here yesterday. The factory investment was about $10 million, according to representatives at the embassy.
Officials and investors, however, are eyeing the potential beyond garments and construction, in which the UK has also invested.
“Technology, technology, technology . . . The UK can invest in technology advancement in Cambodia and take us to the next level,” Pan Sorasak, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said yesterday after a speech by Gillan.
UK ambassador to Cambodia Mark Gooding said British companies would look at education, construction and financial-services investments in the future.
The United Kingdom was the biggest investor in Cambodia in 2011, according to Cambodian Investment Board documents, but the US$2.2 billion in UK money came almost exclusively in a single investment by a company incorporated in the Cayman Islands. That company, the Post reported in November, was linked to Cambodia’s Royal Group of Companies.
No separate figure for UK investment in Cambodia was available, but the country invested only about $10 million in 2010, Investment Board documents show.
The United Kingdom was the only European investor in Cambodia last year, the documents show.
Gillan, who met with Prime Minister Hun Sen during her visit, said the United Kingdom would look into other sectors for investment opportunities in Cambodia.
“Our challenge is to increase and diversify this trade and investment, and to maximise the opportunities for British companies in Cambodia while supporting sustainable development and poverty reduction,” she said in a speech. Several of Britain’s largest companies, among them Prudential Plc and British Gas, were eyeing the Kingdom, Gillan said.