Trade between Cambodia and international partners in the first eight months of 2023 amounted to nearly $32 billion, down 14.5 per cent compared to $37.4 billion in the same period in 2022, although the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE) contended that total exports have been trending up.

Of the figure, exports rose 0.3 per cent to $15.7 billion from $15.6 billion while imports fell 25.2 per cent to $16.2 billion against $21.8 billion last year.

Based on the statistics, Cambodia’s trade balance recorded a deficit of $588 million between January and August, which is, however, a contraction from a trade deficit of $6.1 billion in the corresponding period in 2022.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post on Sept 10 that international trade has shown “negative signs” for more than a year due to several factors, particularly the war between Russia and Ukraine, and geopolitical tensions between economic powerhouses.

But, what is remarkable now is the positive growth in Cambodian exports, he said, adding that although the growth is “small”, it is a sign that Cambodian goods are “gaining more support in international markets”.

“The decline in international trade affects almost every country in the world. What we need to focus on is the growth of Cambodia’s exports now. This is due to the quality [of products] and that Cambodian products are more diverse and are competitively priced,” he said.

Echoing Lim, Hong Vanak, an economics researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the decline in international trade is a global issue and the growth of local exports is “interesting”, particularly at a time when the world economy is in crisis.

He added that the increase in Cambodia’s export value was partly due to the export of agricultural products, which are in high demand in international markets.

“This is an opportunity for Cambodia to explore the possibilities and diversify its exports more. Agricultural crops have become an [equally] important part of Cambodia’s exports, in addition to textiles and electrical equipment and electronic components,” he said.

In 2022, international trade in Cambodia was valued at $52.4 billion, up 9.2 percent from $48 billion in 2021.

Cambodia’s exports to international markets were to the tune of $22.5 billion, an increase of 16.4 per cent, while imports were worth nearly $30 billion, an increase of 4.3 percent, according to the GDCE