Cambodian goods exports to mainland China reached $588.800 million in the first five months of 2023, up 13.27 per cent year-on-year from $519.821 million and up 18.25 per cent half-on-half (compared to July-November 2022) from $497.91 million, according to Customs (GDCE).
Last month alone accounted for 25.35 per cent of the total, at $149.257 million, making it the highest export month since July 2021 ($151.477M), as indicated by provisional GDCE figures compiled in “International Merchandise Trade Statistics” bulletins.
Mainland China was Cambodia’s biggest merchandise trading partner for the period, representing 26.312 per cent, 6.412 per cent and a whopping 44.39 per cent of the Kingdom’s international trade ($19.293 billion), exports ($9.183B) and imports ($10.109B), respectively.
The volume of merchandise traded between the two jurisdictions in January-May 2023 was to the tune of $5.076 billion, up 1.72 per cent year-on-year from $4.990 billion and up 10.51 per cent half-on-half from $4.593 billion.
At the same time, the Kingdom imported $4.488 billion worth of goods from mainland China, up 0.38 per cent year-on-year from $4.470 billion and up 9.57 per cent half-on-half from $4.095 billion.
Cambodia recorded a trade deficit – the amount by which a country’s imports exceed its exports – of $3.899 billion with mainland China for the five-month period, narrowing by 1.31 per cent year-on-year from $3.951 billion but expanding by 8.37 per cent half-on-half from $3.598 billion, according to the GDCE.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng put down the steady increase in the two-way trade, particularly the Kingdom’s exports to China, down to “good” political and diplomatic relations, the bilateral Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) that took effect on January 1, 2022, and products recently given Beijing’s green light for import.
“I am optimistic that, as production increases going forward, exports from Cambodia to China will rise even more. China will see a greater presence of Cambodian agricultural products,” he told The Post on June 15.
Heng shrugged off the nearly $4 billion trade deficit, merely stating that the Kingdom imports tonnes of textile-related raw materials from China used in the production and export of goods.
In general, Cambodia must import commodities to meet domestic demand, including construction materials, office supplies, electrical and electronic equipment, vehicles and food products, he said, adding that the Kingdom exports produce and raw materials.
In May alone, the Cambodia-mainland China merchandise trade volume came to $1.182 billion, up 11.58 per cent from $1.060 billion in May 2022 (year-on-year), up 23.80 per cent from $954.97 million in November 2022 (half-on-half), up 61.39 per cent from $732.56 million in February 2023 (quarter-on-quarter), and up 14.61 per cent from $1.032 billion in April 2023 (month-on-month), according to the GDCE.
Cambodian exports reached $149.257 million, up 55.32 per cent year-on-year from $96.097 million, up 22.76 per cent half-on-half from $121.581 million, up 27.62 per cent quarter-on-quarter from $116.956 million, and up 34.59 per cent month-on-month from $110.897 million.
Imports stood at $1.033 billion, up 7.22 per cent year-on-year from $963.452 million, up 23.96 per cent half-on-half from $833.391 million, up 67.81 per cent quarter-on-quarter from $615.605 million, and up 12.20 per cent month-on-month from $920.698 million.
Mainland China was Cambodia’s second largest export destination and top import source in May, representing 28.62 per cent, 7.657 per cent and a massive 47.340 per cent of the Kingdom’s international trade ($4.132B), exports ($1.949B) and imports ($2.182B), respectively, GDCE numbers show.
‘To have a shot’
Royal Academy of Cambodia economist Hong Vanak remarked that despite a global pattern of reductions for nearly a year, trade between Cambodia and China has not slowed significantly. Similar to Heng, Vanak credited this to “good” public-private relations between the two nations, pointing out that Cambodian exports have witnessed considerable growth.
“[Nonetheless,] to have a shot at establishing a substantial presence in the Chinese market and other markets, Cambodia must also increase its production capacity and diversify,” he suggested.
In 2022, mainland China was again Cambodia’s largest merchandise trading partner, representing $11.686 billion or 22.291 per cent of the Kingdom’s overall $52.424 billion in exports for that year, up 4.39 per cent, down 1.025 percentage points, and up 9.19 per cent on 2021.
The corresponding trio of figures for previous years are as thus: 2021 ($11.195B; 23.316%; $48.012B), 2020 ($8.183B; 21.855%; $37.442B), 2019 ($8.563B; 24.522%; $34.921B), 2018 ($6.977B; 23.340%; $29.894B), 2017 ($6.033B; 23.714%; $25.442B), 2016 ($5.135B; 23.158%; $22.174B) and 2015 ($4.345B; 22.756%; $19.095B).
in 2022, Cambodia’s exports to and imports from mainland China were to the tune of $1.241 billion and $10.446 billion, respectively, down 17.85 per cent and up 7.86 per cent against 2021, expanding the former’s trade deficit with the latter by 12.61 per cent on an annual basis to $9.205 billion.
A total 34.886 per cent of the Kingdom’s $29.942 billion in imports last year came from mainland China. For comparison, the numbers for prior years were: 2021 (33.740%; $28.703B), 2020 (37.145%; $19.100B), 2019 (37.471%; $20.172B), 2018 (35.461%; $17.265B), 2017 (37.194%; $14.220B), 2016 (37.111%; $12.245B) and 2015 (37.054%; $10.588B).
Mainland China was Cambodia’s top import source and number-three export destination in 2022, behind only the US ($8.969B) and Vietnam ($2.169B).