Bilateral trade between Cambodia and the US in the first 11 months of 2021 topped $8.396 billion, surging by more than 32.1 per cent from over $6.355 billion in the same period last year, according to US Census Bureau (USCB) data on January 10.
In January-November, Cambodian exports to the US amounted to $8.0182 billion, up by 32.69 per cent year-on-year from nearly $6.043 billion, and imports logged $378.1 million, ticking up by 21 per cent year-on-year from over $312 million.
The Kingdom’s overall trade surplus with the US over the period widened by more than 33.3 per cent year-on-year from over $5.730 billion to $7.6401 billion.
In November alone, trade between the two countries stood at nearly $826 million. Cambodian imports reached $794.2 million, up 51.0 per cent year-on-year from $525.9 million, and exports hit $31.5 million, down nearly 26 per cent year-on-year from $42.4 million.
That month, the Kingdom’s trade surplus with the US swelled by almost 58 per cent to $762.7 million, from $483.5 million in November 2020.
Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, made the case that the Covid-19 crisis had not left a significant dent in the Kingdom’s trade with the US.
He said trade between the two countries continues to grow every year, driven by, inter alia, robust economic relations, preferential treatment provided under the US’ Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), and the desirable quality and prompt delivery of Cambodian goods, especially textile-related products such as garments.
The economist posited that Cambodia’s graduation from least developed country (LDC) status would not have a significant impact on bilateral relations, voicing optimism that the US would support progress in the Kingdom.
“[Be that as it may], if at any time the US withdraws Cambodia’s GSP benefits, that wouldn’t be a major problem as I understand it, as by then the Kingdom would be able to get by on its own, and stand as a lower middle income country,” he told The Post.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng said the increase in trade with the US was also influenced by political instability and more severe Covid-19 crises in other countries, pushing buyers to divert their orders to the Kingdom, from markets such as Myanmar, Bangladesh and Vietnam.
Heng, in contrast, believes that the loss of duty-free access and other trade benefits under the GSP would be a genuine cause for concern among investors in the Kingdom, identifying the scheme as a growth engine for trade.
But regardless of whether the Kingdom continues to enjoy preferences under the scheme, “we hope that there will be a Cambodia-US bilateral free trade agreement in the future, adding to the number of regional and bilateral trade pacts the Kingdom has already reached”, he said.
Cambodian exports to the US mainly comprise clothing, footwear, travel goods, bicycles and electronic components, while major imports include automobiles, machinery, electronics and pharmaceuticals, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Bilateral trade between the Kingdom and the US surpassed $6.906 billion in 2020, up more than 18.0 per cent from $5.851 billion in 2019, the latest revised USCB figures indicated on January 10.
The export value of Cambodian goods was $6.5624 billion, up 22.96 per cent from the $5.3371 billion posted in 2019, while goods imported from the US were worth $343.9 million, down nearly 33.1 per cent from $513.9 million.
The Kingdom’s trade surplus with the US rose by 28.93 per cent to $6.2185 billion in 2020, from $4.8232 billion the previous year, according to the adjusted USCB statistics.