TRADING company Inchcape Pacific has upgraded its office in Cambodia into a fully owned subsidiary and appointed a representative in Laos, executive director the Earl of Cromer said yesterday. Inchcape, which began operations in Cambodia a year ago, remains one of the few Hongkong companies to make any inroads in the country. Lord Cromer said Khmer Agencies Co, Inchcape's operation in capital Phnom Penh, now employs some 20 people, all Cambodians. The firm has been busy supplying the luxuries of life to the 22,000 United Nations peacekeepers. ''Now we are making the transition between the United Nations as a source of business and whatever there may be in Cambodia itself,'' he said. Wines, spirits and medical supplies are expected to be among the major items traded, along with office equipment such as photocopiers, fax machines and personal computers. Inchcape kept up its operation despite attacks by Khmer Rouge forces, led by Pol Pot, in the run-up to last month's elections, he said. He added: ''There were concerns about the safety of our staff. We did have an emergency plan but thankfully we didn't have to put it into action.'' In Laos, the appointment of a representative in the capital Vientiane, again staffed by locals, means that Inchcape is represented in almost every country in South and East Asia. Now Lord Cromer is now forced to travel to Vladivostok looking for new markets. In Laos, the Thai baht circulates freely and in Cambodia even the locals use the US dollar for almost every transaction. Both countries are viewed by foreign analysts as ripe for tourist development but at present foreign aid and narcotics trade feature heavily. ''There are not too many Hongkong businesses in Cambodia,'' said Wayne Wong Kwok-wing, assistant chief economist at the Hongkong Trade Development Council's research department. He said the dominant investor country was Thailand. Lord Cromer said that in Cambodia it was very difficult to get staff, particularly those with skills. He added: ''It's extremely difficult to find anyone who is remotely literate. Pol Pot had everybody executed who had any form of education at all.'' Some Cambodians fled, however, and Inchcape's operations are run by a Cambodian whom Inchcape found in Singapore. Yet Inchcape does not expect big profits from either country, compared with its long-running activities in much larger Vietnam, which has about 10 times as many people. ''We just wanted to offer Inchcape services across all these countries,'' said Lord Cromer. Cambodia has a population estimated at between 4.5 and six million. The United Nations said earlier this week that growth was around three per cent, instead of the 10 to 12 per cent originally predicted. Lord Cromer described Laos, with its approximately 3.5 million citizens, as ''even smaller and poorer''.