U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia William E. Todd (center) poses for pictures with locals.

Long Beach’s Cambodia Town hosted a special guest with a special mission Monday when U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia William Todd visited the city in the hopes of fostering business relationships between American and Cambodian companies.

Though Todd addressed a variety of issues at a small town-hall meeting held at the Homeland Cultural Center on Anaheim St., he sat down exclusively with the Post to talk not of the upcoming elections in Cambodia or the human rights issues that exist within the country, but of the reverse trade mission–his sole reason for visiting.

Reverse trade missions are exactly what their title implies. Rather than sending U.S. business delegates to other countries, representatives from said countries are brought right here to the U.S. to invest in U.S. products as well as view the way in which America does business from the inside.

The most recent (and largest) of such missions was the U.S.-ASEAN Smart Grid reverse trade mission which revolved around bringing senior ASEAN utility representatives to the U.S. to discuss key points in energy.

Though Todd’s mission was not entirely focused on California, his stay in Long Beach was orchestrated in the hopes that Cambodian and U.S. businesses can pair up with one another for mutual benefit, including more jobs here in the U.S. and more economy stimulation for Cambodia.

“This mission is Long Beach-specific in a sense,” Todd said. “The close relationship between Cambodia and Long Beach and the diaspora of the Cambodian-American population here is important. The men and women here deeply care about their home. They want to see it do well and they want to stay connected.”

{loadposition latestbusiness}Reverse trade missions have multiple possible outcomes. They may result in foreign investment in American companies that would benefit Cambodia. Or someone can sign a deal to carry American products in Cambodia, such as the recent deal Todd said has been made with Gallo Wines where a man in Cambodia has become the single proprietor to sell them in the Southeast Asian country. Sales are expected to top $1 million in the first year.

“Thus far, we have several opportunities. One guy is looking to invest in franchises–the ‘Franchise Mogul’ is what I call him but he doesn’t want to be named. There’s one man talking to commercial real estate developers. We have some investment bankers here in California. We even have the Port of Long Beach talking to Cambodia to create and foster a port-to-port program,” Todd said. 

According to Todd, the U.S. has the best workforce in the world. And it is under his hopes that mimicking this workforce through tours of operations will help many Cambodian companies transform their low-skill laborers to high-skill laborers with safety and protection.

This will hopefully result in an investment from the U.S. in return, to showcase bourgeoning markets in underdeveloped countries that might have been typically overlooked.

“We’re trying to create an environment where there is city-to-city-like relationship but between businesses,” Todd said. “Businesses in Phnom Pehn will have contacts, business sourcing relationships and individual companies that they can reach out to and get things from.”

The “tremendous opportunity” that Todd believes exist is something that most American businesses remain unaware of.

“Cambodia hasn’t surged yet, but it’s got all the right ingredients,” Todd said. “It’s a young country–70% of its population is 30 or younger. They love American products. They are geographically [central]. And lastly, given the quality of American goods, I believe people would be willing to pay more because they view it as a good value.”

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