The Next Asian Cub Tigers?

Cambodia and Myanmar: The Next Asian Cub Tigers? (PDF)

review by Mohammad Ali Syed

Several Committees of the International Section, including the Asia Pacific Committee, collaborated to present this very timely and informative program. The organizers and speakers were as below:

Program Chair – Mohammad Ali Syed, Syed Law Firm, PLLC, Nashville, TN;
Moderator – Brenda A. Jacobs, Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, DC;
Program Chair/Speaker – Eric Rose, Herzfeld & Rubin PC, New York, NY;
Speakers – Dr. Andrew Salai Ngun Cung Lian, Myanmar Development Resource Institute;
Daniel Noonan, Sciaroni & Associates – Phnom Penh, Cambodia;
Heather Rogers, US State Dept. Burma Desk, Washington, DC.

Major political and economic changes are occurring in Southeast Asia, which is fast becoming an investment hotspot, thus, making it a current hot area, as economists and investors alike are pointing to this market with equal enthusiasm. Competition for deals and funding, however, is increasing and investors can no longer rely on general market growth trends to make their investments successful. The audience was very fortunate to have live interaction with the high profile speakers, some of whom had travelled especially for this program from Myanmar and Cambodia.

The discussion focused on the legislative and practice changes, sanctions which limit the freedom to invest, local labor, environmental, energy, corruption, and fundraising concerns, and how these can be overcome; operational strategies and value creation; the legal frameworks and the key role of the state in incentivizing investment. Among the highlights were investment options available to both large companies and SME’s in Myanmar and Cambodia, as well as opportunities for investors beyond any specific country throughout the ASEAN countries.

The speaker from Cambodia, Daniel Noonan, Head of Banking & Finance Practice Group at Sciaroni & Associates in Phnom Penh, has been advising investors in SE Asia for the past 6 years on foreign direct investments, mergers and acquisitions and commercial regulatory matters. Prior to joining his firm, he advised investors entering Laos as an associate with DFDL Mekong and in Vietnam as an associate with Baker & McKenzie. Daniel studied law in Chicago at The John Marshall Law School and in Tokyo at Temple University.

Mr. Noonan, pointed out that the Kingdom of Cambodia is a developing country re-integrating into the world economy and has achieved sustained annual economic growth for more than a decade. His powerpoint presentation on Doing Business in Cambodia covered many areas relevant to U.S. and European businesses entering and operating in that country.

He stated that investment laws have been established that permit wholly-foreign owned entities to engage in nearly all business sectors and services (with some minor exceptions). Being one of the most open and liberalized foreign investment regimes in Asia, Cambodia has chosen a development path that differentiates it from its more developed neighbors. Although there are challenges with respect to corruption and rule of law, these are being addressed by the current government as the investment climate continues to improve.

About Mo Syed

Mr. Syed graduated cum laude from the University of Rochester and obtained his law degree from the George Washington University Law School. In 2007 he completed the Harvard Law School Program of Instruction for Lawyers (mediation workshop). His past law experience includes several years in the antitrust and business disputes section of the law firm of King & Ballow with offices in Nashville, TN and La Jolla, CA. Mr. Syed previously practiced litigation at a law firm in Washington, D.C. with offices and active cases nationwide focusing on tort and complex civil disputes. He has also worked for the Civil Litigation Branch of the District of Columbia Office of Attorney General (formerly D.C. Office of Corporation Counsel), as well as a leading corporate law firm in Karachi, Pakistan.