Cambodian goods exports to Vietnam amounted to $491.180 million in the first two months of 2023 – surging by 36.12 per cent over the same time last year – accounting for 45.28 per cent of bilateral trade, jumping up by 7.30 percentage points year-on-year, according to Customs (GDCE).

In the January-February period, the Cambodia-Vietnam merchandise trade was valued at $1.085 billion, up 14.17 per cent year-on-year, with Cambodian imports from Vietnam to the tune of $593.557 million, up 0.73 per cent, narrowing the Kingdom’s trade deficit with its neighbour by 55.18 per cent on a yearly basis to $102.377 million.

Vietnam accounted for 15.84 per cent of Cambodia’s $6.848 billion international trade over the two-month period – up 4.99 percentage points year-on-year – as the Kingdom’s third largest bilateral trading partner, after mainland China with $1.705 billion and the US with $1.169 billion.

Last month alone, the bilateral merchandise trade came to $605.98 million, up 30.96 per cent from February 2022 and up 26.57 per cent from January 2023.

Cambodian exports to Vietnam reached $318.953 million, up 55.4 per cent year-on-year and up 85.19 per cent month-on-month, while imports were $287.027 million, up 11.45 per cent year-on-year but down 6.36 per cent month-on-month.

The Kingdom registered a monthly trade surplus with Vietnam of $31.93 million in February – the first since March 2022’s $24.01 million – compared to deficits of $52.3 million in February 2022 and $134.303 million in January 2023.

Speaking to The Post on March 12, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng suggested that large amounts of imports and exports between the two bordering countries are informal and hence not included in GDCE statistics.

The bulk of Cambodian exports to Vietnam comprise agricultural products – notably paddy, natural rubber, cashew nuts and cassava – and raw materials for processing, he said, stating that the former have been on a constant uptrend as of late.

Vietnamese exports to Cambodia include iron, steel and construction materials, oils, fruits and vegetables, fertilisers, and agricultural machinery, he said, adding that trade between these two countries has bucked the trend of declines witnessed so far this year between the Kingdom and other trading partners.

Heng predicted that the Cambodia-Vietnam trade would be even more lucrative going forward, as more border crossings open and the proposed Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway connecting the capital to the Vietnamese border materialises.

The Ministry of Commerce reported on March 10 that, at an “upcoming plenary session”, the Council of Ministers – or Cabinet – is set to review a key draft law concerning cross-border trade between Cambodia and Vietnam, which is expected to deliver a sizeable upswing in import and export flows.

Cumulative foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into Cambodia between the August 5, 1994 promulgation of the old Law on Investment and December 31, 2021 amounted to 168.8 trillion riel ($41.0 billion), swelling by 11.2 per cent from the nearly 152 trillion riel recorded by end-2020, according to the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC).

Vietnam was the fourth largest investor in the Kingdom with $2.5 billion, or a 6.1 per cent market share, after China ($18.0 billion; 43.9 per cent), South Korea ($4.9 billion; 11.9 per cent) and Singapore ($2.7 billion; 6.5 per cent).

The Cambodia-Vietnam merchandise trade closed 2022 at $6.136 billion, up 19.64 per cent versus 2021, with the Kingdom’s exports to and imports from its neighbour to the tune of $2.169 billion and $3.967 billion, respectively, up 9.25 per cent and 26.20 per cent on a yearly basis, according to the GDCE.

The Kingdom’s trade deficit with Vietnam for the year expanded by 55.25 per cent, from $1.158 billion in 2021 to $1.799 billion in 2022.

Vietnam was the second largest exporter to Cambodia last year, after mainland China at $10.446 billion, and followed by Thailand ($3.833 billion), Singapore ($3.230 billion) and Switzerland ($1.436 billion).