KUCHING: Bilateral trade between Malaysia and Cambodia, a long-established investment destination of Malaysia banks and other leading corporate firms, has blossomed over the years. This is evident as the two-way trade between the two Asean member countries has grown stronger from RM425.6 million in 2016 to RM445.8 million in 2017 and swollen to RM558.6 million last year. In the first six months of 2019, trade figures have reached RM422.6 million, according to the Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation’s data.

Chemical products, rice, garment and textile, petroleum products, footwear, palm oil and machinery are some of the main products being traded between Malaysia and Cambodia. At least five top Malaysian banks — Maybank, Public Bank, CIMB Bank PLC, RHB Indo China and Hong Leong — are early investors in Cambodia. Smart Axiata Co Ltd and edotco Cambodia Ltd (tower builders), which are part of Malaysia’s telecommunications operator Axiata Group Bhd, are also playing a key role in the economic development of Cambodia.

According to Malaysian Business Council of Cambodia president Teh Sing, the longstanding bilateral relations, proximity between both countries, mutual respect for one another and ease of doing business have been major pull factors for Malaysians to continue their investments in the kingdom. Across the business spectrum, Malaysian investments have proliferated into a host of industries — food and beverage, hospitality, tax and financial services as well as trading in fast moving consumer goods. Malaysian talents are driving the Cambodian financial industry, from banks to insurance.

“The young Malaysians see a synergy here (between Cambodian businessmen). They click naturally (and) the environment is very conducive. “We can only see the business growing here,” Teh Sing told the Phnom Penh Post in an interview. Cambodia’s policy in engaging the private sector through its ‘Rectangular Strategy’ has powered its economy for successive growth and provided the much needed confidence to foreign investors. The ‘Rectangular Strategy’ aims to promote growth, employment, equity and efficiency across the country.

Teh Sing said the Cambodian government is pro-business and it is the only country in Asean where its Prime Minister Hun Sen meets the private sector twice a year. “This is something very unique that made Cambodia so successful with seven percent average growth for the last 20 years. “Seven percent is something which you don’t just get, it needs lot of planning.

The Rectangular Strategy has proven successful. “Cambodia has been doing it so long and that is why investors are still comfortable and that is why Malaysians are still coming. That is the strength of this country,” he added.

Having worked in Cambodia for almost 27 years, Teh Sing’s optimism is backed by the strong bilateral trade figures between Malaysia and Cambodia, and multiple other reasons that continue to woo Malaysian business community to the resilient Cambodian economy. As Cambodia is reaping the reward from the long term ‘Rectangular Strategy,’ the country enjoys steadfast economic growth, employment is on the rise and so is the middle class.