Cambodia’s trade volume with the other ASEAN countries was nearly $4 billion in the first quarter of this year, a reduction of 16 per cent compared to the same period in 2022, a Ministry of Commerce report said on April 24.

The report said that neighbours Vietnam and Thailand are Cambodia’s leading markets within ASEAN. Cambodia-Vietnam trade volume in the first quarter of 2023 reached nearly $1.9 billion or an 8.4 per cent increase.

Cambodia-Thailand trade volume was pegged at almost $1.1 billion, or down 9.8 per cent. Indonesia is the third country with $305 million, up 43.2 per cent.

By comparison, Customs (GDCE) reported that the commodity trade between Cambodia and the top five ASEAN markets – Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia – hit $3.563 billion in the first quarter, down 15.88 per cent from the $4.235 billion recorded in the same time last year.

Ministry of Commerce spokesman Penn Sovicheat said that there was a decline not only in regional trade but also with other major countries such as China because at the beginning of this year, agricultural products were not exported a lot.

“It is not possible for us to look at the whole picture of the market as it is difficult to find the practical reason. The reason does not reflect the negativity of exports and imports of Cambodia and ASEAN. It is also due to declining demands for overseas orders after pressure from the war and crisis in Ukraine,” he added.

He continued that trade exchanges, especially the export market, were no different, but it has always changed seasonally year on year and according to the needs of purchasers.

“After they order their purchases they prepare a timetable so we can export the goods. Additionally, it can also depend upon the timetable for the cargo ships because when many ships arrive in our port, that’s when we can export a lot of goods,” Sovicheat stated.

Cambodia Logistics Association president Sin Chanthy said on April 24 that the decline in trade was not just between Cambodia and countries in the region, but global trade also declined at the beginning of this year.

“Usually, trade and transport logistics go hand-in-hand. It means that if trade exchanges increase, so does transport. But if the trade exchange drops, so does transport.

“This decline is not only in Cambodia, but also in the ASEAN region. The decline is global because of the same obstacles facing us, especially before it was the Covid-19 crisis, now it is the war that continues in Ukraine. Therefore, the price of fuel increases and that leads to higher transport prices and inflation,” he stated.

The commerce ministry said that Cambodia has exported agricultural products, clothes, footwear, bags, electronics and bicycles to ASEAN countries while importing food, drink, electrical and electronic equipment, construction materials, agricultural machinery and vehicles.

The GDCE said that in the first quarter of this year, trade between Cambodia and international markets reached nearly $11.3 billion, or down 14.5 per cent from the same period in 2022.

Cambodia’s exports to international markets totalled close to $5.4 billion and Cambodia’s imports from abroad totalled over $5.8 billion.