Interview with Marko Walde, Executive Director of AHK Australia

This week, we interviewed the Executive Director of AHK Australia Marko Walde, who recently moved on from his role as Chief Representative of AHK in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Marko tells us about his experience in Vietnam -- where he spent 13 years working at AHK -- and Cambodia, where he served as lead AHK representative towards the end of his tenure. Read on to learn about lessons that can be learned from Vietnam and how Cambodia can increase its business ties with Germany.

EuroCham: Looking back on 12+ years at AHK Vietnam, what will you miss most about working in the ASEAN region?

Marko: Reflecting on over a decade of working in the ASEAN region with AHK Vietnam, what I will miss the most is the vibrant energy and dynamic atmosphere that characterizes this region. The opportunity to engage with diverse cultures, navigate unique business landscapes, and foster meaningful connections with local partners has been truly rewarding. Additionally, witnessing the rapid economic growth and development in countries like Vietnam and Cambodia has been inspiring. I'll also miss the camaraderie among colleagues and the collaborative spirit that defined our work at AHK Vietnam. However, I'm excited for the new opportunities and challenges that await me in Sydney.

EuroCham: Before moving to Australia, you briefly supervised AHK operations in Cambodia, when AHK Vietnam expanded to include Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia. Where do you see the most opportunity for Cambodia to increase its business relationships with Germany?

During my tenure overseeing AHK operations in Cambodia, I observed tremendous potential for the country to enhance its business relationships with Germany. Cambodia's stable growth in sectors such as apparel, tourism, and construction highlights its resilience and attractiveness to foreign investors. The strategy outlined by the new government, emphasizing institutional reforms, resource development, economic diversification, sustainability, and digital transformation, aligns well with Germany's expertise and interests.

EuroCham: Germany currently imports about $9 billion of goods and services from Vietnam and about $2 billion from Cambodia. What can Cambodia do to attract more buyers from Germany?  

Marko: Embarking on a journey to captivate the interest of German buyers, Cambodia stands at a pivotal juncture where innovation meets opportunity. With a vision to forge stronger trade relations, Cambodia's strategy encompasses diplomatic efforts and negotiations, aiming to amplify market access and diminish trade barriers. By investing in robust trade infrastructure and logistics networks, Cambodia paves the way for seamless movement of goods, offering a gateway to international markets, including Germany.

Ensuring that Cambodian products adhere to German quality standards and regulatory requisites serves as a beacon of trust, instilling confidence in German buyers. As Cambodia ventures into sustainable and ethical practices, it underscores a commitment to global values of sustainability, ethical production, and social responsibility.

Participation in trade fairs and exhibitions emerges as a vibrant canvas for Cambodia to showcase its rich tapestry of offerings, fostering connections and igniting possibilities. Leveraging platforms like the German Federal Association of Materials Management, Purchasing and Logistics (BME) matchmaking, Cambodia orchestrates a symphony of collaboration, aligning aspirations with opportunities and propelling towards a future of shared prosperity.

EuroCham: After spending more time focusing on Cambodia for the past year-plus, what are some of the biggest differences you see between Cambodia and Vietnam, from a trade/economic perspective? 

Marko: Surveying the economic landscape of Cambodia and Vietnam, a tale of resilience and evolution unfolds. While Vietnam's economy dances with complexity and diversification, showcasing a kaleidoscope of exports beyond basic commodities, Cambodia finds its strength in garments and agricultural products.

Vietnam's allure to foreign investors is buoyed by its superior infrastructure, regulatory framework, and a skilled labor force, propelling it to the forefront of economic prowess. Conversely, Cambodia, though faced with challenges in these arenas, presents a canvas ripe for growth and transformation.

In the realm of quality control and compliance, Vietnam has forged a path of excellence, while Cambodia continues its journey towards mastery. However, amidst these differences, lies a realm of possibility. Cambodia, drawing inspiration from Vietnam's journey, charts a course towards sustainable economic development, intertwining destinies, and embracing a future of shared prosperity.

EuroCham: Are there any specific products or services that stick out to you as prime opportunities for Cambodian exporters to Germany? 

Marko: Embarking on a quest to conquer German markets, Cambodian exporters unveil a treasure trove of opportunities across diverse sectors. At the forefront stands the textiles and apparel industry, where Cambodia's commitment to high-quality fabrics and ethical production resonates with German buyers who champion sustainability and authenticity.

In the realm of footwear and leather goods, Cambodia's prowess shines brightly, offering a spectrum of products crafted with finesse and sustainability in mind. As Cambodia's agricultural landscape blooms with treasures like rice, mangoes, pepper, and cashew nuts, German buyers find themselves drawn to the allure of premium quality and sustainability.

Amidst the symphony of opportunities, Cambodia emerges as a beacon of possibility in the realm of bicycles, a segment embraced with fervor in Germany. With ingenuity and innovation as its compass, Cambodia charts a course towards a future where collaboration breeds success, and possibilities know no bounds

EuroCham: How can Cambodia and Vietnam work together to increase overall business between ASEAN and Germany/EU? 

Marko: In a harmonious dance of collaboration, Cambodia and Vietnam converge to chart a course towards enhanced business ties between ASEAN and Germany/EU. A testament to their commitment lies in the forging of comprehensive trade agreements, fostering a landscape where mutual prosperity blossoms.

By harmonizing trade regulations and improving infrastructure connectivity, Cambodia and Vietnam set the stage for seamless trade flows, beckoning German and EU businesses with promises of opportunity and growth. Through joint marketing initiatives and promotional endeavors, ASEAN's capabilities unfurl on the global stage, captivating hearts and minds alike.

Identifying sectors of mutual strength and competitive advantage, Cambodia and Vietnam orchestrate a symphony of collaboration, where innovation meets tradition, and possibilities know no bounds. As they navigate the winds of change, Cambodia and Vietnam emerge as beacons of hope, illuminating a path towards a future of shared prosperity and boundless opportunities.

EuroCham: Given the geopolitical context, disrupted supply lines, and general economic uncertainty, do you foresee more or less interest from Germany in trading within the ASEAN region over the next 10 years? 

Marko: As the world navigates through the seas of uncertainty, Cambodia and ASEAN stand as pillars of resilience and opportunity, beckoning Germany with promises of collaboration and growth. Amidst disrupted supply lines and geopolitical shifts, Cambodia's allure as a sourcing base shines brightly, offering a tapestry of opportunities.

Embracing the China +1 strategy, German companies find solace in the diversified supply chains offered by ASEAN, where innovation and tradition converge to create a landscape ripe with possibilities. As ASEAN countries invest in innovation and technological advancements, the stage is set for a symphony of collaboration, where mutual prosperity blooms, and boundaries fade away.

Through steadfast determination and unwavering commitment, Cambodia and ASEAN unfurl a vision of shared prosperity, where collaboration knows no bounds, and possibilities stretch beyond the horizon. In the dance of diplomacy and trade, Cambodia and ASEAN emerge as beacons of hope, illuminating a path towards a future where resilience triumphs, and prosperity knows no bounds. 

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