SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia, May 22 (Xinhua) -- The Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SSEZ), a flagship project in Cambodia under China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has not only injected impetus into the kingdom's economic growth, but also importantly contributed to improving livelihoods of tens of thousands of locals.
Situated about 20 kilometers northeast of the international deep-water Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, the SSEZ currently houses 175 factories from China, Europe, the United States, Southeast Asia and other regions, generating nearly 30,000 local jobs.
Those enterprises manufacture clothes, shoes, luggage and leather goods, medical supplies, machinery, construction materials, home furniture, auto parts and car tires, and new photovoltaic materials, among others.
Speaking at the BRI's 10th anniversary ceremony held at the SSEZ on Monday, Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said the industrial zone is a good example of mutually beneficial cooperation and win-win results between Cambodia and China under the BRI.
"This SSEZ has created a lot of jobs for local people and is a manufacturing base for exports to other countries including China," he told more than 24,000 factory workers at the event.
Hun Sen commended the SSEZ for its steady development even during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that it has been playing a role in the establishment of an industrial and technological corridor of the country.
Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian said the SSEZ, the largest industrial zone in Cambodia in terms of size and occupancy, is a model project of practical cooperation between China and Cambodia under the BRI.
"This special economic zone has become the locomotive of economic growth in Sihanoukville and the 'golden rice bowl' for local residents," he said at the event.
Cambodian Minister of Labor and Vocational Training Ith Samheng said the SSEZ is essential to help transform Sihanoukville into a multi-purpose special economic zone and the second economic pole of Cambodia.
"The SSEZ has not only contributed to the development of our economy, but also had corporate social responsibilities," he said, adding that it has always engaged in humanitarian work and local community development.
SSEZ General Manager Cao Jianjiang said the value of imports and exports passing through the zone rose to 2.49 billion U.S. dollars in 2022, up 12 percent year-on-year.
"This has not only injected strong momentum into Cambodia's economic development, but also greatly contributed to improving livelihoods of local workers and residents living around the zone," he told Xinhua.
Founded in 2008, the SSEZ has helped transform the tranquil and undeveloped Sihanoukville into a bustling city, he said.
Speaking of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement and the China-Cambodia Free Trade Agreement, Cao said both trade pacts will help the SSEZ attract more investment, given their preferential tariffs and trade facilitation.
"The SSEZ will make full use of the two agreements to promote the China-Cambodia 'Silk Road E-commerce' and to boost exports of Cambodian agricultural products to China and other RCEP members, so that local farmers will be able to increase their income," he said.
According to Cao, the SSEZ is expected to accommodate up to 300 factories in the coming years, which can generate up to 100,000 jobs for Cambodian people. ■