Cambodia's commodity exports to Thailand saw a sharp 37.57 per cent on-year increase in the first nine months of 2022, at $655.050 million versus $476.155 million last year, as the government works to leverage its economic diplomacy strategies to drive up international sales of domestic products.

The January-September bilateral commodity trade between Cambodia and Thailand stood at $3.627 billion, up 27.21 per cent year-on-year, of which Cambodian imports came in at $2.972 billion, up 25.13 per cent, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE).

Cambodia’s trade deficit with Thailand for the period expanded by 22.02 per cent year-on-year to $2.317 billion.

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.

Cambodian ambassador to Thailand Ouk Sorphorn told The Post on October 23 that trade between the two countries has enjoyed 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 trade have been on an uptrend this year as Covid risks wane.

For reference, GDCE statistics show that September trade was $399.2 million, down by 10.6 per cent from August, which was down 7.7 per cent from July’s peak of $484.0 million. However, monthly figures show a loose upward trend with the numbers for the first two months of this year at $361.0 million and $364.1 million, respectively.

The Bangkok-based Cambodia Business Council (CBC) has also lent a hand to stimulate trade between the countries, aiming to bring more domestically-made goods into the Thai market, while curbing imports, Sorphorn said, adding that a business matching event between the CBC and Thai Subcontracting Promotion Association (Thai Subcon) was in the pipeline.

“We are also urging big Thai companies such as 7-Eleven [Thailand] and Big C to help sell our products and promote our merchandise on international markets,” he said.

At a meeting with the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) and Board of Trade of Thailand in early August, Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak invited Thai players to invest in Cambodia to strengthen and expand trade relations, his ministry noted in a statement on the same day.

Sorasak reported that bilateral trade grew just over one-tenth from $3.49 billion in 2020 to $3.85 billion in 2021. By comparison, GDCE data show an 8.57 per cent rise in commodity trade from $3.761 billion in 2020 to $4.084 billion in 2021.

The minister expressed desire to welcome Thai investors with even greater perceived potential into the Cambodian arena to strengthen and expand bilateral business relations, and lift trade and investment between the two countries “towards mutual benefit and prosperity”, according to the statement.

Sorphorn added that the Phnom Penh-based Innovation & Development Investors Association (IDI), which now has more than 100 members, discussed with Thai retailer CP All the export of Cambodian goods to Thailand, especially geographical indications (GI) such as Kampong Speu Palm Sugar and Koh Trong Pomeloes, from the namesake island in Kratie province.

Similarly, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport of Cambodia and the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) of Thailand on July 19 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to establish an improved logistics cooperation framework between both countries.