Cambodia’s goods exports to Vietnam reached $1.324 billion in the first five months of 2023, up 22.69 per cent year-on-year from $1.079 billion and up 83.92 per cent half-on-half from $719.79 million, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE).

This made up 46.12 per cent of the total volume of merchandise traded between the two countries for the January-May period, which was to the tune of $2.871 billion, up 2.91 per cent year-on-year from $2.789 billion and up 27.55 per cent half-on-half from $2.251 billion, according to provisional GDCE data in “International Merchandise Trade Statistics” bulletins.

At the same time, the Kingdom imported $1.547 billion worth of goods from ASEAN’s reportedly fourth largest economy, down 9.57 per cent year-on-year from $1.710 billion but up 1.04 per cent half-on-half from $1.531 billion.

Cambodia’s trade deficit – the amount by which a country’s imports exceed its exports – with the socialist republic for the five-month period clocked in at $222.890 million, shrinking by 64.70 per cent year-on-year from $631.388 million as well as by 72.52 per cent half-on-half from $811.03 million.

Vietnam was Cambodia’s third biggest trading partner for the period – behind mainland China ($5.076B) and the US ($3.292B) – representing impressive 14.88 per cent, 14.42 per cent and 15.30 per cent shares of the Kingdom’s international trade ($19.293 billion), exports ($9.183B) and imports ($10.109B), respectively, GDCE figures indicate.

Speaking to The Post on July 6, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng pointed out that merchandise shipments from, and especially to, Vietnam have generally maintained an upward trend despite the slowdown in foreign trade seen across the world over the past few years amid poor economic conditions.

Heng primarily attributed the uptick in Cambodian exports to Vietnam to agricultural products, noting that domestic output thereof is growing every year.

He predicted continued growth in goods flows between the two neighbouring ASEAN member states, especially Cambodian agricultural exports to Vietnam, buoyed by a recent border trade agreement – likely referring to a deal among 11 cooperation documents signed on November 8.

According to Heng, key Cambodian exports to Vietnam comprise paddy rice, rubber, cashew nuts, cassava, corn, bananas, mangoes, tobacco and other natural resources, while notable imports include construction materials, machinery, fuel, electrical and electronic equipment, fertilisers, spices, and fruits and vegetables.

GDCE figures show that, in May alone, Cambodian exports to Vietnam stood at $142.392 million, up 40.0 per cent year-on-year from $101.742 million, but down 38.18 per cent half-on-half from $230.334 million, down 55.36 per cent quarter-on-quarter from $318.953 million, and down 47.58 per cent month-on-month from $271.655 million.

That month’s imports, meanwhile, came in at $297.758 million, down 22.69 per cent year-on-year from $385.135 million, but up 6.41 per cent half-on-half from $279.824 million, up 3.74 per cent quarter-on-quarter from $287.027 million, and up 2.19 per cent month-on-month from $291.373 million.

Vietnam was the Kingdom’s third largest export destination and second-ranked import source in May, representing 10.65 per cent, 7.305 per cent and 13.645 per cent of the Kingdom’s international trade ($4.132B), exports ($1.949B) and imports ($2.182B), respectively, according to the GDCE.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economist Ky Sereyvath remarked that the rise in domestic production capacity has improved the Kingdom’s ability to meet local demand and expand exports, especially to nearby countries.

“Improvements in the quantity and quality of Cambodian commodities, particularly produce, is behind the growth in bilateral trade, especially Cambodia’s exports, which have been rising consistently,” he said.

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.

Vietnam accounted for 11.704 per cent of the $52.425 billion in international trade registered by Cambodia last year. Here are the corresponding figures from previous years for comparison: 2015 (5.801%; $19.095B), 2016 (7.401%; $22.174B), 2017 (7.880%; $25.442B), 2018 (8.491%; $29.894B), 2019 (8.746%; $34.921B), 2020 (10.437%; $37.442B) and 2021 (10.682%; $48.012B).

Statistical discrepancies and asymmetries in trade figures are common between different sources, however, with the foreign ministry putting the 2022 two-way trade volume at a massive $10.57 billion – a whole 72 per cent higher than the GDCE value – which it recorded as an increase of 10.88 per cent from $9.5 billion in 2021. These numbers are corroborated by official Vietnamese statistics.

No breakdown was immediately available of the particular items traded between Cambodia and Vietnam during any part of the 2022-2023 period.