BROKERING PUBLIC - PRIVATE COLLABORATION
The Case of the Cambodia - Thailand Buyer - Seller Meet 2017
The importance of public-private collaborations cannot be overemphasized. Yet oftentimes, the common concern is always how to bring actors from these sectors in one place together and talk. Various ways are offered, and the Cambodia-Thailand Buyer-Seller Meet 2017 proved that a simple trade promotion event can successfully double as a platform for facilitating public - private collaborations.
Organized on October 7, 2017, the trade event was conceptualized as a way to bring buyers and sellers from Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Koh Kong and Pursat provinces; and Thailand’s Chanthaburi, Sa-Keo and Trat provinces, together. Spearheading the event were the participants of Mekong Institute (MI)’s regional modular training program on Trade Events Promotion (held in June the same year), and who themselves are small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners, business association (BA) representatives and trade promotion organization (TPO) officers in these provinces.
“The event opened business opportunities for private sectors from Cambodia and Thailand and makes a word of mouth among their network. It set out to link up local SMEs from border provinces in the two countries to expand the enterprises’ network beyond the domestic market,” shares Nonthaphat Noavasaisrui, leader of the Thailand team. He further explains, “The event was a primary platform for SMEs from both countries to interact, exchange contacts and discuss business opportunities, as well as broaden the business and trade activities.”
The one-day event gathered a modest crowd of 61 buyers, sellers and business development service (BDS) providers from the provinces of the two countries. Twenty of them were from the public sector, representing provincial TPOs, and the rest were from the private sector, mostly from the Chambers of Commerce (CCs), BAs and SMEs.
Putting to use what they learned from the MI training, the organizers designed the buyer-seller meet as more than a business networking platform. Business enterprises also displayed their products. Field visits to Phu Poy and Battambang central markets and to a grape juice and wine producing company were even organized for the participants.
As a business networking initiative, the event yielded some very promising partnerships. A Cambodian organic beverage business, Sunny KTMLM Co., Ltd., partnered with Khmer Balm Company; and Soi Dao Bio-Agriculture Group, a Thai company that specializes on herbal and organic fertilizers, also struck up a collaboration with another Cambodian business supplying raw materials. Thai SMEs making herb products found a new supplier of raw materials in Pursat Handicraft, an enterprise based in Cambodia’s Pursat province.
But perhaps the most remarkable outcome of this event were separate side meetings which involved the chamber of commerce from Thailand’s Trat province, Provincial Governor of Cambodia’s Battambang, and chambers of commerce from Cambodia’s Koh Kong and Pursat provinces. The event paved the way for these stakeholders to meet and explore ways to forward province-to-provide trade cooperation.
These initial meetings led to more subsequent meetings for the creation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on agriculture and tourism development between Thailand’s Trat Chamber of Commerce and Cambodia’s Koh Kong, Battambang and Pursat provinces. Such formalization of cooperation will have noteworthy consequences not just for the enterprises in these border provinces but in the overall trade cooperation between Cambodia and Thailand. In addition to helping individual businesses to expand, information exchange can, for instance, benefit Cambodian SMEs in upgrading their production technology, while Thai enterprises can be connected to a wider network of possible sources of raw materials from the Cambodian industries.
Meanwhile, however, as the parties continue their discussions on the settlement of the MoU, the Chambers of Commerce of Trat and Pursat are now awaiting the opening of a new international border check-point (Thazen-Thamoda) that is expected to facilitate further inter-province trade collaboration.
Facilitating public-private partnerships, while they may seem challenging and bureaucratic, sometimes do not require elaborate arrangements. Indeed, something as straightforward as a buyer-seller meet can be the most logical – and most convenient – platform to bring together stakeholders from two sides. With commitment and proper follow through, an initial meeting can lead to meaningful results.