Cambodian exports to India clocked in at $113.87 million in the first 11 months of 2021, a 99.16 per cent year-on-year surge from $57.17 million, as the Kingdom forges ahead on negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with the South Asian country, according to Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay.

In January-November, bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $274.20 million, up by 57.27 per cent year-on-year from $174.35 million, while imports from India were to the tune of $160.32, a 36.82 per cent year-on-year uptick from $117.17 million, ministry statistics show.

These figures indicate that the Kingdom’s trade deficit with India narrowed 22.6 per cent from $60 million in January-November 2020 to a little under $46.5 million in the corresponding period this year.

The ministry spokesman told The Post that although the percentage increase in Cambodian exports to India were significant, volumes remain low.

This is in contrast with shipments to Japan or Canada, which grow at lower percentages, but involve far larger sums, Thay noted.

Nonetheless, “the increase in Cambodia’s exports to India is a good sign of bilateral cooperation with India”, he said, predicting that sales to the South Asian country would see a substantial boost next year to “account for the size of the market”.

He explained that the ministry has set up respective working groups tasked with negotiating bilateral FTAs with countries and economic blocs such as China, South Korea, the UK, US, Japan, India, Mongolia and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), but noted that not all discussions end in immediate success.

“We’ve concluded [FTA talks] with China and [South] Korea, and are continuing negotiations with other countries,” Thay said.

The Kingdom signed an FTA with China last year and another with South Korea in 2021, with the former due to enter into effect on January 1, and the latter expected to follow later in 2022.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post that the rise in bilateral trade between the Kingdom and India could help to spur talks on the bilateral FTA, which would improve market access conditions between the two countries.

Indian companies are a major source of technological imports, he said, adding that a considerable number of them invest in almost all sectors of the Cambodian economy, offering agriculture, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment as notable examples.

Noteworthy Cambodian exports to India include agricultural products and textile-based goods such as garments and bags, he added.

He hopes that more Indian entities will be persuaded to invest in the Kingdom and shore up exports, once the recently-signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and FTAs with South Korea and China enter into effect, creating a favourable trade and investment environment.

He underlined that investors could also benefit from preferential arrangements granted to the Kingdom by trade partners, such as those under the generalised systems of preferences (GSP) or the EU’s “Everything But Arms” (EBA) scheme.

Cambodia’s global trade was worth a total of $37.346 billion in the first 10 months of 2021, an upswing of 28 per cent year-on-year, of which exports stood at $14.286 billion, down by two per cent, and imports reached $23.060 billion, climbing up by 58 per cent compared to January-October 2020, according to ministry data.