The trade volume between Cambodia and China reached more than $11.1 billion last year, representing a 37.28 per cent year-on-year surge, the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh reported, quoting figures from the Ministry of Commerce.

In 2021, Cambodian exports to China amounted to $1.51 billion, rising by 39 per cent year-on-year, and imports were to the tune of $9.63 billion, up by 37 per cent over 2020, the data show.

This means the Kingdom’s trade deficit with China widened to more than $8.1 billion in 2021, from around $6 billion in 2020.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng said the Kingdom’s strong relations with China has greatly helped boost the Cambodian economy, especially through agricultural exports to the Chinese market.

He explained that the trade deficit was due to a bona fide need that Cambodia shares with many developing countries for raw materials and various production inputs used to make, inter alia, garments and other textile-related goods, electronics and electronic equipment.

“In the coming years, the trade volume between the two countries will increase further as we start to implement the bilateral free trade agreement, together with the new investment law, which will provide more favourable conditions,” Heng said.

“We expect both exports and imports to continue to grow.”

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath ascribed last year’s uptick in the Sino-Cambodian trade volume to: closer bilateral ties, especially as the Kingdom chaired the ASEAN Summit; a Covid-induced reduction in global supply; and the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) that went into effect early this month.

He said the CCFTA would raise total Cambodian exports to China, especially agricultural products.

However, Sereyvath stressed that there are still plenty of obstacles to goods exports to China.

For example, a planned deep-sea port terminal in Preah Sihanouk province is still in the works, forcing Cambodia to rely on ports in Vietnam and Thailand for trade, which could spell trouble if they were to close or operate under restrictions for any reason, he noted.

The economist voiced hope that the new terminal would significantly ratchet up the value of Cambodian trade with China and the rest of the world.