ICT Exports Jump over 30% On-Yr. for 2nd Month in May

Exports in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector in May jumped by over 30 percent for the second consecutive month.

According to the ICT ministry on Sunday, ICT shipments totaled 19-point-05 U.S. dollars last month, up 31-point-eight percent from a year earlier.

The on-year growth, which rose to 33-point-eight percent in April, has stayed above 30 percent for the second straight month.

Exports of semiconductors increased 52-point-four percent on-year, while shipments of displays rose 15-point-three percent and mobile phones increased ten-point-eight percent.

By country, exports to China jumped 35-point-three percent on-year, while those to the United States and the European Union rose by 20-point-seven and 21-point-three percent, respectively.

ICT imports also increased two-point-four percent on-year to eleven-point-48 billion dollars, resulting in a trade surplus of seven-point-57 billion dollars.

Fuel Tax Cuts to be Reduced Starting Next Month

The government announced it will reduce fuel tax cuts from next month.

According to Finance Minister Choi Sang-mok on Monday, the fuel tax cut will be extended until August 31, but the tax rate will be slightly adjusted beginning on July 1.

The tax cut rate for gasoline will be adjusted from the current 25 percent to 20 percent, while the tax rate cut for diesel and liquefied petroleum gas(LPG) will be adjusted from the current 37 percent to 30 percent.

This means consumers will pay roughly 40 won, or around three U.S. cents more per liter of gasoline and diesel, while LPG users will pay 12 won or less than a cent more per liter.

Minister Choi said the government will decide whether to extend the fuel tax cuts by considering inflation and oil price trends after August 31.

Top German firm keen on opening tech factory in Kingdom

Robert Bosch GmbH, a parent company of Bosch Cambodia Co Ltd and a world-leading engineering and technology firm headquartered in Germany, agreed to send a regional envoy to examine the possibilities of opening its factory in the Kingdom.

The commitment was made on Thursday during the meeting between Sun Chanthol, Deputy Prime Minister and First Vice-Chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) and Alexander Weichsel, Commercial Plant Manager of Bosch in Nuremberg, Germany.

The Deputy Prime Minister is on a mission trip to the European Union (EU), leading the delegation to attract foreign investments into the Kingdom’s priority sectors from June 9-18.

During the discussion, Chanthol told Weichsel that the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) encouraged the private sector to explore investment opportunities that emerged in the country including agriculture, agro-industry, automobiles, electronic, renewable energy and tourism industries.

Noting the company’s potential, he urged Weichsel to consider choosing Cambodia as a prime location to expand the production chain, supplying to other Southeast Asia countries.

The Bosch Manager gave a positive response, promising to send the company representative based in Singapore and Vietnam to examine in detail aimed at opening the new factory in the Kingdom.

Later in the day, the Deputy Prime Minister also met Christiane Riefler-Karpa, Managing Director of Memmert GmbH, a company developing and manufacturing laboratory equipment.

During the meeting, the Mememrt working group presented their business activities and the production sites in Southeast Asia countries, modernising the art of production facilities to manufacture the appliances economically and in an environmentally friendly manner

Later the Managing Director guided Chanthol and the delegation to inspect the factory and the production hall in which the technology used by the company did not harm the environment.

Memmert GmbH is also a leading company in the development and production of high-quality laboratory equipment with over 90 years of experience and currently exported to over 160 countries around the world.

The mission trip to Germany was accompanied by Suon Sophal, Deputy Secretary General of the Cambodian Investment Board (CIB) of CDC, Hun Lak, Secretary General of the Cambodian Oknha Association (COA), Kuon Thida, President of Orienda International Hospital and Peou Rithjayasedh, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Ly Khun Thai, Vice President of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) told Khmer Times, “Germans generally invest in projects that have a clear master plan such as a suitable location for the project implementation, the competitive market in the industry and research on future risks.”

He said Khmer businessmen who want to operate their business along with Germans should prepare a clear development plan so that foreigners have the confidence to cooperate and invest in those projects.

Unionized Workers at Samsung Electronics Take Collective Action amid Wage Negotiation Deadlock

Unionized workers at Samsung Electronics collectively used their annual leave to take the day off on Friday, after declaring their intention to take a joint leave of absence for the first time in the company's history.

The collective action is led by the tech giant's largest National Samsung Electronics Union(NSEU), which has a membership of over 28-thousand, amounting to 22 percent of the total workforce.

The union, meanwhile, has not revealed the exact number of members taking part in Friday's group action, as it said it wanted the members’ participation to be voluntary.

As labor and management had engaged in negotiations, including over wages, without progress since January, the union secured the right to take the collective action through a members’ vote, before announcing the planned strike on May 29.

Friday's group action, however, will not likely have an adverse impact on Samsung's production lines, as many workers were reportedly expected to take Friday off to enjoy a long weekend starting from Thursday's Memorial Day.

Education ministry, JICA keen on promoting STEM education

The importance of STEM education in Cambodia was underlined in a meeting between JICA and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports last week in Phnom Penh.

Om Romny, Secretary of State for the Ministry received the JICA delegation led by Vice Chief Representative of JICA Agency in Cambodia Miura Yuriko on May 30.

The courtesy meeting dwelt upon the long-term cooperation between the two countries in the area of technical education. The two sides pledged to constantly strive to improve relations and cooperation through the implementation of a variety of technical cooperation projects in the Kingdom. In particular Information and Communication Technology (ICT) cooperation projects would be given high priority.

The Secretary addressed the meeting detailing the progress made in the sector of education. He said the progress development of the STEM Education Program in high schools, strengthening the abilities of the teachers of STEM, promotion of ICT education in high schools and continuation of strengthening of educational databases were impressive.

Developing a workforce skilled in STEM is essential for structural transformation and sustainable economic growth in Cambodia, said Daiju Aiba, JICA Expert, National Bank of Cambodia to Khmer Times.

The country needs to transition from light manufacturing to heavy manufacturing industries, which requires an increase in skilled workers in STEM fields. Moreover, STEM education equips students with the skills needed to compete in the global job market, making Cambodia more attractive for foreign investments.

Speaking about the ties between the two countries, Daiju said that Japan has provided significant technical and financial assistance to Cambodia, including constructing teacher education colleges to improve teacher quality and providing assistance to the Institute de Technologie du Cambodge to enhance higher education in STEM. Given Japan’s expertise in ICT education, there is potential for collaboration to introduce and expand ICT education in Cambodia.

The biggest challenges in the education sector are equity and quality. Introducing ICT could improve access to quality education regardless of location or socio-economic status. Additionally, like many other developing countries, Cambodia faces low overall quality in higher education and limited budget allocation for universities.

Further collaboration with Japan could help improve the quality and equity of education in Cambodia. ICT education is one area where Cambodia can significantly benefit from Japanese expertise.

However, from Daiju’s perspective, there is a need for more focused assistance on higher education. Enhanced support in this area could improve the quality of STEM education (including social science) and contribute to economic growth.

Macron is Hosting Biden for a State Visit as the Two Leaders Try to Move Past Trade Tensions

PARIS (AP) — President Joe Biden is being feted by French President Emmanuel Macron with a state visit Saturday, as the two allies aim to show off their partnership on global security issues and move past trade tensions.

Biden and Macron attended ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday. They met separately the following day with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Paris — engagements they both used to underscore the urgent need to support Kyiv’s fight against Russia’s invasion.

But Macron and Biden have often chafed at the pace of support for Ukraine, especially as the U.S. — by far the largest contributor to Kyiv’s defense — was forced to pause aid shipments for months while congressional Republicans held up an assistance package.

The state visit will begin with a welcome ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe and a military parade along the Champs-Élysées leading to the Élysée Palace, where the two will hold official meetings and deliver public statements. Later, Macron will host a state dinner at the palace for Biden and his wife, Jill.

Biden hosted Macron in December 2022 at the White House for the first state visit of his presidency — a glamorous affair that included business and political figures after the COVID-19 pandemic.

First lady Jill Biden will join her husband for the Saturday events, returning to France aboard a government plane after spending Friday in Delaware to support their son, Hunter Biden, who is standing trial on federal gun charges.

Biden’s trip to France also comes ahead of Sunday’s European Parliament election, in which the far right is likely to emerge as one of the biggest winners while Macron’s pro-EU movement is flagging.

A top French official said Macron and Biden have a friendly and warm relationship and stressed that the U.S. president is spending five days in France, reflecting the importance he attaches to the visit. The official spoke anonymously, in line with customary practices for Macron’s office.

The official said the U.S. presidential campaign was not a factor in the discussion.

Macron previously hosted then-President Donald Trump, the Republicans’ presumptive 2024 nominee, in France for Bastille Day in 2017, before being hosted himself by Trump in 2018 for a state visit, before the two leaders’ relationship soured.

Both U.S. and French officials said Ukraine would be at the top of Saturday’s agenda, but the centerpiece of the weekend event would be the strength of the alliance, proven at Normandy 80 years ago, but with roots far deeper.

“It’s probably a good thing for us to remember that we didn’t win our independence either without some foreign help or foreign assistance, specifically from France,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Friday.

Max Bergmann, a former U.S. State Department official who leads Europe research at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the relationship between the two countries is strong despite occasional disagreements.

“There’s always tension in Franco-American relations, because the French try to do stuff,” he said. “They’re bold, they throw up proposals, and that leads to some friction when we push back.”

For example, he said, France proposed putting Western trainers on the ground in Ukraine, leading to questions of whether this is “really giving Ukraine a major, tangible benefit” or has the “potential to be escalatory and dangerous.”

Regarding Macron, Bergmann said, “he’s the one that pushes the boundaries and throws up ideas.”

Kirby said the two leaders would have an announcement Saturday on deepening maritime law enforcement cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. They also are to discuss economic and climate challenges.

While praising the Biden administration’s commitment to supporting Ukraine, Macron said earlier this year that Europe must become “capable of defending its interests, with its allies by our side whenever they are willing, and alone if necessary,” arguing the continent should rely less on the U.S. for its own defense.

He also warned Western powers against showing any signs of weakness to Russia as he repeatedly said that sending Western troops into Ukraine to shore up its defense shouldn’t be ruled out.

The two leaders were also set to discuss their efforts to bring about a cease-fire to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, as the U.S. and Israel await Hamas’ response to a Biden-promoted ceasefire proposal that would allow a surge of humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

“The president will update President Macron on all of that. And again, eagerly await his perspectives and his views as well on what’s going on in Gaza,” Kirby said.

Macron is expected to raise U.S. trade practices that he has often criticized, including the Inflation Reduction Act, which favors American-made climate technology, like electric vehicles. Macron said the U.S., like China, has “decided not to respect the rules of global trade” by shoring up protections and subsidies while Europe’s industry remains open and is stuck in overregulation.

The French top official said Europe has to defend European interests, after watching the U.S. do the same with its own, but said Macron hopes to find a mutually acceptable outcome.

Gary Hufbauer, nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said trade with China is a sticking point between the U.S. and Europe, particularly France. The U.S. has been more eager to restrict trade, particularly regarding technology.

Biden is also moving toward tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles and batteries, which could affect European cars that include Chinese parts.

The fear is that “if you’ve got some component from China, we don’t want you in the U.S.”

“That’s a big worry in Europe.”

Overall, Hufbauer said, “Europe wants to maintain much more trade with China than the U.S. wants.”

WhatsApp boss in online spat with Elon Musk

WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart has hit back at claims from Elon Musk that the messaging app "exports your user data every night."

Posting on X, Mr Cathcart said the allegation was simply "not correct".

He pointed to the fact WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted, meaning they cannot be read by the company at all.

Yann LeCun - artificial intelligence chief at parent company, Meta - has also weighed in, using more industrial language in his X post attacking Mr Musk's claims.

On another Meta platform, Threads, Mr LeCun also levelled further criticisms at Mr Musk, accusing him of making contradictory and unrealistic claims about artificial intelligence and "spewing conspiracy theories" on his own social media platform.

Mr Musk has a well-established reputation for getting himself into online rows, from submariners to sacked former employees.

In this case, Mr Cathcart is right to say only the sender and recipient of a WhatsApp message can read its contents.

In fact, the firm's commitment to encrypting messages is so significant that it previously said it would rather be blocked in the UK than weaken the encryption it uses.

Mr Musk's vague language - simply saying that "user data" was being uploaded - could however be interpreted to refer to metadata, the extra bits of information sent alongside the actual message.

"WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted, but user data is not only about messages," said security researcher Tommy Mysk in a post on X.

"That also includes the metadata such as user location, which contacts the user is communicating with, the patterns of when the user is online, etc."

It is known that WhatsApp does share some metadata with other platforms Meta owns - but this does not include messages.

"One area of particular concern has been WhatsApp sharing data with other Meta companies," said Dr Tristan Henderson, lecturer in computer science at the University of St Andrews.

"This does include sufficient metadata for these Meta companies to make suggestions and show personalised adverts, which in itself shows what metadata can reveal."

The WhatsApp Privacy Policy specifically states that the firm will use some user data for "showing relevant offers and ads across the Meta Company Products".

The BBC has approached Meta for comment.

S. Korea, UAE Sign Free Trade Deal to Open Up Crude, Automobile Markets Tariff Free

Anchor: South Korea and the United Arab Emirates(UAE) on Wednesday signed a comprehensive economic partnership agreement(CEPA), Seoul's first such pact with an Arab nation. President Yoon Suk Yeol and UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan held summit talks in Seoul, seeking ways to boost their cooperation. 
Kim Bum-soo has more. 

Report: 

[Sound bite: Official welcome ceremony before S. Korea-UAE Summit]

A grand welcoming ceremony featuring the Air Force's Black Eagles aerobatic team and honor guard inspections signaled a wider market opening between South Korea and the United Arab Emirates(UAE).  

President Yoon Suk Yeol and UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan held bilateral talks at the top office in Seoul on Wednesday, launching the first free trade agreement between South Korea and an Arab country. 

The UAE is South Korea’s 14th largest trading partner, with an annual bilateral trade volume exceeding 20 billion U.S. dollars.

With the comprehensive economic partnership agreement(CEPA) officially signed, the two sides are scrapping tariffs on more than 90 percent of their trade items over the next ten years, including automobiles and crude oil. 

While exporting 483 million dollars worth of cars to the UAE, Seoul last year imported over ten percent of its crude oil purchases from the Arab country. 

With the bilateral free trade deal, the UAE is also set to open its online game and music markets to the highest level to South Korea.

On the first day of his state visit to South Korea on Tuesday, Sheikh Mohamed held meetings with leaders of key South Korean businesses, including Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor and SK groups as well as Hybe, the entertainment agency for K-pop superstars BTS. 

At the bilateral talks, the UAE's sovereign wealth fund also reaffirmed its plan to invest 30 billion dollars in South Korea, which was agreed during Yoon’s state visit to Abu Dhabi last year.  

The two countries also signed a memorandum of intent for South Korea’s construction of at least six liquefied natural gas carriers worth around one-point-five billion dollars. 
Kim Bum-soo, KBS World Radio News.

PM calls on parents to strengthen moral education for children in the age of digital technology to maintain dignity in society

The Prime Minister of Cambodia, Dr. Hun Manet, called on families and communities to strengthen moral education for future generations in order to maintain the dignity of society in the era of technological globalisation.

In a message celebrating Family Day under the theme “Families are a strong foundation for social and economic development,” held on May 15, Prime Minister Hun Manet said that the family is an important cell for building high-quality human resources and well-being, which is a strong asset to maintain peace and increase economic value, raise cultural values, and create new ideas towards achieving the long-term sustainable goals of socio-economic development.

At the same time, grandparents, fathers, mothers, and brothers and sisters all play an important role in raising and educating children to be good children, good students, and good citizens for the community and society. The Prime Minister said that education from this family has actively contributed to the preservation and promotion of culture, religion, traditions, and customs of the nation by adhering to morals, ethics, understanding, tolerance, and respect for the law.

Dr. Hun Manet also called on each family and community to continue to strengthen the spirit of good solidarity and pay attention to education, morals, traditions, and customs by providing education, learning, morality, ethics, behaviour, general knowledge, and other professional skills.

The Prime Minister also asked the monks, elders, and teachers to provide good advice to family members and communities for the younger generation to learn and follow; as the saying goes, “the elderly are the training ground for the younger generation.”

Cambodia, Japan to strengthen economic ties

Cambodia and Japan will strengthen economic ties in a bid to boost trade and investments. This was decided at a business matching event held at the headquarters of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in Tokyo recently.

Sun Chanthol, Deputy Prime Minister and First Vice-Chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), accompanied by Tuy Ry, Ambassador of Cambodia to Japan led the Cambodian delegation at the event on Wednesday.

At the meeting, the Deputy Prime Minister expressed his gratitude to “friends who organized a valuable matching programme on the occasion of the investment door-knocking mission of the CDC.”

The Deputy Prime Minister also emphasized that the enterprises that were participating in the meeting had also participated in the Cambodia Investment Seminar 2023, presided over by Prime Minister Hun Manet on December 19, 2023, in Tokyo.

The Deputy Prime Minister expressed strong hope that the Cambodian private sector will seize this golden opportunity to attract Japanese enterprises to invest in Cambodia.

Participants at the meeting included investors in the logistics, manufacturing, aluminium, agriculture, agro-industry, pharmaceutical and information technology and communications sectors.

It may be recalled that Japan is now the fifth biggest trading partner of Cambodia with bilateral trade (exports and imports together) reaching $507 million in the first three months of this year, an increase of 11 percent year-on-year.

Cambodia’s exports to Japan reached $365 million in the first quarter (Q1), an increase of 18.4 percent compared to the same period last year. The rising exports also ensured that Japan is now the fourth biggest export destination of Cambodia, accounting for 5.8 percent of the Kingdom’s export market.