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On July 5, Thalias’ CEO, Arnaud Darc, was appointed as a Co-Chairman of the Government-Private Sector Working Group D, led by His Excellency Aun Pornmoniroth, Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister. Mr Darc was honoured and delighted by his nomination and has vowed to undertake the role with his customary dedication, diligence and hard work. He steps into the not inconsiderable shoes of Bretton Sciaroni, the American lawyer who carved a unique place in Cambodia’s business and legal community, and who passed away earlier this year.

In 1997, wanting to facilitate a greater investment environment and foster stronger relationships between the government and industry, Prime Minister Hun Sen established a range of government-private sector working groups. His aim was to create a platform for the business community to raise and resolve issues in relation to proposed legislation. Each Working Group is dedicated to a specific sector, such as Health or Education, and Working Group D is tasked with addressing issues relating to Law, Tax and Governance. However its remit goes wider than that and it is considered a “court of last resort” as it also takes on issues that do not comfortably sit within the remits of other working groups. As a result, it may also deal with matters related to telecommunications, transport, mining, anti-corruption, etc*. The lead private sector association for Working Group D is the International Business Chamber of Cambodia (IBC).

Working Group D brings together representatives from a number of Business associations and institutions, including the IBC, EuroCham Cambodia, the Japanese Business Association of Cambodia, the Cambodia Women Entrepreneur Association, Cambodia Tourism Federation, and the Young Entrepreneur Association of Cambodia. Its work is supported by legal and tax experts at firms such as DFDL, Deloitte, PWC and Bun & Associates, while individual experts in other domains such as logistics, real estate, technology and agro-industry are also instrumental in the group’s work. 

Key to all of this coming together is the role played by the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC), whose oversight ensures the coordination of the different working groups. Mr Darc has had the privilege of working directly with CCC President, Neak Oknha Kith Meng, in the past, in particular in relation to the lobbying of the European Commission in order to minimise the withdrawal of the EU’s Everything-But-Arms (EBA) trade preferences, and very tight negotiations with the Government of Cambodia to mitigate the impact of the Law of Senior Indemnity that included a potentially damaging retroactive clause.

Mr Darc co-hosted his first WG-D meeting on July 16, and addressed the issues head on. Speaking to the representatives Mr Darc talked about the need to address the processes that will underpin the Working Group’s vital work and the need to collectively address issues that may have fallen by the wayside over the years owing to the lack of a common voice. He hopes that by introducing new processes and a cohesive front, these issues may be addressed and resolved. 

“I believe that… we have the opportunity to speak with one voice and tackle these issues,” he said. “The challenge here will be for us to talk with one voice and put all our weight behind it to help improve the business environment in Cambodia so that all companies are able to strive on a level playing field and foreign direct investment can increase exponentially. The leverage we have here is 48 members with a wide range of expertise and the necessary experience to carry out that mission.”

“With work, coordination and vision we can accomplish a lot here, and I am confident that this is what we want,” he added. 

From IBC website: