Thank you for the continuous and wonderful feedback to my column. I am
glad we can have a candid dialogue through Rasmei Kampuchea. Please
keep asking me questions via AskAMBToddPP@state.gov.
This week, many of you asked, “What recommendations do you have for the Cambodian government to attract U.S. investors to Cambodia?” This is an excellent question and it underscores the fact that as Cambodia raises its international profile, especially as chair of ASEAN, new opportunities open up. The fact is, U.S. businesses have more than $2 trillion dollars available for investment, and countries around the world, including the United States, are competing to attract that money.
American and other foreign investors see opportunity in Cambodia, and their investment has the potential to grow the economy through greater job opportunities, increased trade, and higher living standards. In assessing Cambodia’s market potential, U.S. investors can be comforted in the fact that at least 83% of Cambodia’s exports head to the United States, thus making the U.S. Cambodia’s largest export market. But investors are mindful of issues such as corruption and the fair application of rule of law – they don’t expect guaranteed profits, but foreign investors do expect predictability and a level playing field. Strengthening the rule of law in Cambodia would have a positive impact on attracting U.S. investors to Cambodia, which would allow Cambodia’s economy to flourish and grow.
A great resource for more information on this topic is the American-Cambodian Business Council (also known as AmCham Cambodia). As a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an active participant in the Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers, AmCham Cambodia enjoys a close relationship with the U.S. Embassy. AmCham is a powerful voice for American business in Cambodia.
As Ambassador to Brunei and again as Coordinating Director of Development and Economic Affairs in Afghanistan, I worked with U.S. businesses to create opportunities for success. It is an exceptional honor, however, to work with the AmCham in Cambodia and its member companies. AmCham is a key player in realizing the benefits of the pivot toward Asia that Secretary Clinton announced in 2010, and it is helping to create a more effective partnership with Cambodia. I would like to commend Bretton Sciaroni’s and James Swander’s leadership of the AmCham, which has contributed to the positive change in Cambodia’s economic landscape. President Calvin Coolidge once said, “The business of America is business.” So my mandate in working with AmCham is “the business of the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh is business!”
Over the past few years, AmCham has organized conferences to educate potential investors about Cambodia, such as last year’s forum with the International Business Council, featuring the participation of 300 potential investors. Additionally, AmCham played a significant role in last month’s U.S.-ASEAN Business Council forum in Siem Reap, where U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton led her largest ever business delegation. In less than two weeks, President Obama will dispatch his chief trade advisor, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, to participate in the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meetings and the ASEAN-U.S. Business Summit. With visits from the highest levels of the Obama administration, the United States is serious about deepening economic ties in Cambodia and the rest of the ASEAN community.
Another question that came up this week was “What efforts has the U.S. been making to fight HIV/AIDS in Cambodia?” HIV/AIDS is a huge problem not just in Cambodia, but around the world. Last month, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton participated in the 19th annual international HIV/AIDS conference to stress the significance of promoting scientific development to eradicate this global pandemic. Former President George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been a great program to assist Cambodia’s fight against this devastating disease. Since 1998, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has invested more than $150 million in targeted HIV/AIDS programming locally, providing almost 40% of the resources available to the national response. In 2005, the PEPFAR program brought together the resources of USAID, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of State, helping Cambodia achieve early its targets for Millennium Development Goal 6: Halt and Reverse the Spread of HIV/AIDS. The U.S. program has helped reduce the adult HIV prevalence rate by more than half, reduced the HIV prevalence rate among sex workers, and helped ensure that 80% of the estimated 56,200 adults living with HIV/AIDS in Cambodia are receiving care and treatment.
These statistics alone are one of the many reasons that I am so thrilled to celebrate USAID’s 50/20 anniversary next Wednesday night. Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy started a U.S. government agency dedicated to international development, and twenty years ago, USAID’s current mission in Cambodia began. USAID has done fantastic work helping to rebuild the country after the Khmer Rouge’s devastating regime by building and maintaining strong, effective relationships with the Cambodian government and NGO partners.
Thanks so much again for reading my column. Keep sending me questions at AskAMBToddPP@state.gov and be sure to check out my blog at http://blogs.usembassy.gov/todd.
William E. Todd is U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia