The Cambodia-Vietnam merchandise trade volume amounted to more than $2.4 billion in the first four months of 2023, while Cambodian exports increased by nearly 21 per cent, according to provisional General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE) statistics.

In the January-April period, the total goods trade topped $2.430 billion, an increase of 5.6 per cent from the $2.303 billion registered in the same period in 2022.

Of that amount, Cambodian exports to Vietnam passed $1.181 billion, up 20.9 per cent year-on-year from $977.270 million, while imports amounted to $1.249 billion, down 5.8 per cent from $1.325 billion. The Kingdom’s trade deficit with Vietnam stood at $67.524 million, narrowing 80.60 per cent from $347.995 million in the year-ago period.

Vietnam accounted for 16.03 per cent of Cambodia’s international trade volume in the first four months of 2023.

Last month alone, the bilateral trade volume reached $563.03 million, down 3.01 per cent from $580.48 million in April 2022. Cambodia’s exports in April 2023 were valued at $271.655 million, up 24.4 per cent year-on-year, and imports were worth $291.373 million, down 19.5 per cent.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng hailed the uptick in Cambodian exports to Vietnam, which he put down to the Kingdom’s increasing production capacity, especially in agriculture, amid improvements in bilateral relations.

Also driving up the exports are the bilateral and multilateral trade agreements shared between the two bordering countries, especially the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), he told The Post on May 10.

The RCEP is the world’s largest trade pact, encompassing Cambodia, Vietnam and 13 additional Asia-Pacific countries.

On the other hand, he drew attention to the fact that most of the goods that Cambodia exports to Vietnam are raw materials and agricultural products, and suggested that the Kingdom could benefit even more by ramping up shipments of finished products.

“The growth of bilateral trade, especially the sharp increase in Cambodian exports, is a sign that production is getting stronger” in the Kingdom, he said, predicting that trend to continue.

Key Cambodian exports to Vietnam comprise mainly paddy rice, rubber, cashew nuts, cassava and other agricultural products as well as raw materials, he said, listing major imports as steel and construction materials, oils, fruits and vegetables, fertilisers, and agricultural machinery.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, claimed that trade and tourism relations between Cambodia and Vietnam would gain even more momentum once the Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway is completed.

This high-speed thoroughfare – expected to break ground early in the second half of the year – is planned to connect the capital to the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town.

He echoed Heng’s remark that the rise in bilateral trade, and especially Cambodian exports, signals an increase in domestic production capacity, adding that the Kingdom’s export capacity is also growing.

“[Nonetheless,] because the two countries share a common border, the amount traded could be much higher than what we see in these figures,” he commented.

Provisional GDCE statistics indicated that Vietnam was Cambodia’s third largest trading partner in 2022, with the two-way merchandise trade amounting to a record $6.136 billion, up 19.64 per cent over $5.129 billion in 2021.

Cambodia’s exports to and imports from Vietnam came in at $2.169 billion and $3.967 billion, respectively, up 9.25 per cent and up 26.20 per cent on an annual basis, expanding the Kingdom’s trade deficit with its neighbour by 55.25 per cent, from $1.158 billion in 2021 to $1.799 billion in 2022.