Cambodian goods exports to Thailand witnessed a sharp 35.36 per cent on-year increase in the first 11 months of 2022, reaching $756.107 million as shown by Customs data, which has been heralded as a reflection of the strong economic ties between the two ASEAN nations and as payoff for Cambodia’s Economic Diplomacy Strategy (EDS) for 2021-2023.

In the January-November period, the two-way merchandise trade amounted to $4.298 billion, up 18.31 per cent year-on-year, and Cambodian imports $3.542 billion, up 15.22 per cent, according to statistics from the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

Cambodia’s trade deficit with Thailand for the 11-month period expanded by 10.75 per cent, from $2.516 billion to $2.786 billion.

Last month alone, the bilateral merchandise trade came to $346.10 million, down 8.29 per cent from November 2021 but up 6.48 per cent from October 2022. The November figure ended a string of monthly declines recorded since the year-to-date peak of $484.02 million in July, but remains the third lowest after April’s $321.51 million and October’s $325.0 million.

Similarly, Cambodian exports to Thailand were to the tune of $58.10 million, up 28.3 per cent year-on-year and up 35.2 per cent month-on-month, while imports clocked in at $288.00 million, down 13.28 per cent year-on-year but up 2.10 per cent month-on-month.

Sar Sarin, senior vice-president of Bangkok-based Cambodia Business Council (CBC), chalked up the on-year growth in the January-November Cambodian-Thai merchandise trade to closer ties between the adjacent countries, as well as a rebound in economic activity arising from the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

“Our countries maintain a very close relationship in economic and diplomatic terms – that’s the key factor driving bilateral trade. With Covid-19 easing, we’ve seen foreign tourists return to both of our countries along with subsequent increases in demand, and business activity has been bouncing back,” he said.

Sarin took the occasion to highlight the role of his more than two year old institution in the marketing of promising Cambodian goods and opportunities to businesspeople and investors based in Thailand.

“We’ve been working with the Thai business community to promote our products to the Thai market, as we’re looking to ratchet up our exports, rather than imports,” he said.

In a recent interview with The Post, Ouk Sorphorn, outgoing Cambodian ambassador to Thailand, remarked that trade between the two countries had been enjoying remarkably strong momentum since a wide range of socio-economic activities were allowed to resume following an easing in the Covid-19 pandemic.

In that time, “we have strongly promoted economic diplomacy, to get more of our goods into the Thai market”, he said, noting that – as of October – 2022 had seen an uptrend in trade as Covid risks waned.

Economic diplomacy refers to the use of government resources at home and abroad to bolster a country’s economic growth as well as achieve foreign policy objectives and other national interests through the advancement and encouragement of trade, investment, employment and other forms of economic activity.

At a November 10 bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the dual ASEAN summits in Phnom Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart General Prayut Chan-o-cha re-set the $15-billion per-annum two-way trade target for 2025, which they had originally put forth in 2017 for 2020, prior to the pandemic.

The two premiers expressed satisfaction at the gains in trade and bilateral cooperation despite the challenges brought about by Covid-19, the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement.

“Hun Sen also asked the Thai side to buy more Cambodian rice and facilitate procedures for the import of more Cambodian agricultural products into Thailand,” the ministry said.