Trade between Cambodia and Thailand amounted to more than $2.8 billion in the first three quarters of 2023, reflecting a downturn of nearly 18% from the same period the previous year.

Imports from Thailand constituted about 77% of the total, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

From January to September, commerce via land and maritime borders totalled $2.82 billion, a 17.9% decrease from $3.43 billion recorded during the same period in 2022.

Thailand is currently ranked as the country’s fourth-largest trading partner, following China, the US and Vietnam.

Cambodia’s exports to Thailand during the first nine months of 2023 slightly decreased to $652.09 million, a dip of 0.5% from $655.05 million in the same period last year. Imports from Thailand for the interval fell more sharply by 22% to $2.17 billion from $2.78 billion in 2022.

Cambodia’s current trade deficit stands at $1.52 billion, an improvement from the $2.12 billion deficit seen in the first three quarters of 2022.

In September alone, the trade volume between the two countries was at $277.11 million, a 23.59% reduction compared to September 2022. The country’s exports to Thailand increased by 2.5% to $47.46 million, while imports from Thailand declined by 11.7% to $229.66 million.

Hong Vanak, an economist at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said on November 8 that trade between the two nations, sharing both land and water borders, undoubtedly surpasses recorded figures, bolstered by robust commodity traffic and a flourishing tourism sector.

He noted that Thailand serves as a significant market for the country’s produce, with numerous traders purchasing from local farmers during the harvest season for resale in Thailand.

“The decline in trade volume between the two countries is due to the effects of the global economic crisis, which has caused international trade to decline almost everywhere in the world,” he said.

“On the other hand, the increase in production capacity in Cambodia allows for more local production and processing to meet domestic consumption needs, unlike before when we relied almost entirely on imports,” he added.

He noted that the country’s primary exports to Thailand are agricultural products and some natural resources. Thai imports to Cambodia comprise a diverse range of items including food, beverages, beer, pharmaceuticals, vehicles, electronics, electrical equipment, agricultural machinery, chemical fertilizers and cosmetics.

Kim Hout, the director of the Battambang provincial Department of Commerce, reported that the trade of goods between the two countries has been progressing smoothly.

He said that during the harvest season, local visitors and Thai guests come to help buy agricultural products from Cambodian farmers to export to Thailand for processing and packaging. He emphasized that Thailand is the foremost market for farmers in the northwest.

“Exports and imports between the two countries have made good progress, with the exchange of goods taking place on a daily basis,” he added.

Sar Sarin, vice-chairman of the Bangkok-based Cambodia Business Council (CBC), has previously highlighted the importance of strong bilateral relations in fostering increased trade.

He noted that the CBC has played a crucial role in promoting Cambodian products and potential to Thai traders and investors since its inception more than two years ago.

“Our two countries maintain close economic and diplomatic ties, crucial for trade promotion. Following the decline of Covid-19, we’ve witnessed a resurgence of foreign tourists to both countries, leading to heightened demand and a rebound in business activity,” he explained.

For reference, trade volume between the two nations totalled $4.664 billion in 2022, an increase of 14.2% compared to 2021. Cambodia’s exports to Thailand in 2022 experienced an increase of 34.1% to $831.77 million, and imports from Thailand rose by 10.7% to $3.832 billion, as per the GDCE.