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PHNOM PENH - More than 800 government officials, business executives, international institution representatives, and academia from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathered on Saturday to discuss ways to broaden business and investment opportunities in the ten-nation bloc.
Speaking at the opening of the 10th ASEAN Business and Investment Summit 2012, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Chair of ASEAN in 2012, said that the Summit was a good opportunity to discuss and strengthen cooperation and partnership between the governments and private sectors in order to promote business and investment in industries.
He said that ASEAN has been playing a more important role in the region and the world and the bloc's economies grew well in recent years despite the impacts of economic and financial crisis in Europe and the United States.
The premier also urged ASEAN to expedite efforts to deepen regional integration toward building an ASEAN community by 2015.
Speaking on the business and investment climate in Cambodia, Hun Sen said, situated in the Greater Mekong Sub-region and ASEAN, Cambodia is an integral part of the process of creating one of the world's largest consumer markets, which will enable all of Southeast Asia to enter a new era of cooperation and prosperity to the benefit of societies.
"Moreover, Cambodia has a incentive policy and preferential atmosphere for businessmen and investors, so I'd like to appeal to private sector to come to Cambodia for exploring investment possibilities," he said.
He believed that the two-day Summit would produce fruitful results in making better the business and investment opportunities in ASEAN and Cambodia.
Cambodia's Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said that over the course of two days, there would be a business-to-business dialogue, a governments-to-business dialogue and international organizations, governments to business dialogue, back to back with the 21st ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh.
"The Summit will certainly add a significant dimension to the ASEAN Summit as it will provide a platform for leaders and ministers to directly engage with business leaders, and for business leaders to be better informed about the policy agenda and to profile their interests," he said.
Kith Meng, president of Cambodia's Chamber of Commerce and chair of ASEAN Business Advisory Council in 2012, said that this was the first time the Business Summit has been held in Cambodia and it was also the right time for businessmen to explore Cambodia, a country of pro-business policy and economic stability with the annual growth rate of 7.1 percent last year and a projected growth of 7 percent this year.
"The Summit aims at promoting private sector growth in one of the most prosperous region in the world, as well as socializing the dreams of an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015," he said.
The Summit will look into the four of the most crucial areas that will determine the future of ASEAN businesses, he said. Those are the potential of renewable energy in ASEAN, capitalizing ASEAN connectivity, accessing capital for growth and innovation.
Kith Meng said ASEAN sits at the very heart of Asia. If ASEAN were a single country, it would be the 9th largest economy in the world, with close 10 percent, or 600 million, of the world's population, with a combined GDP of $1.9 trillion.
"ASEAN is both a market for the developed world's products and the location of their production facilities," he said.
Founded in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.