Cambodia narrowed its trade deficit with neighbour and fellow ASEAN member state Vietnam last year even as the Covid-19 pandemic triggered tighter border control over fears of spreading the novel coronavirus.

Trade between the Kingdom and Vietnam was worth $3.020 billion in 2020, inching down 1.1 per cent from $3.054 the previous year, according to Ministry of Commerce statistics.

Cambodia exported $385.79 million worth of goods to Vietnam in 2020, surging 14.88 per cent from $335.82 million in 2019, and imported $2.634 billion, down 3.10 per cent from $2.718 billion.

The Kingdom’s trade deficit with Vietnam reduced to $2.248 billion, marking a nearly six per cent drop from $2.382 billion in 2019.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post on March 8 that neighbouring countries offer the Kingdom a hot market for agricultural goods.

“The surge in our exports to Vietnam reflects the commitment between our two governments in promoting cross-border trade and above all the advancement of people [who live in] border [areas].

“I’d even go as far as to say that neighbouring countries are the best export destinations due to their easy [accessibility] for our commodities – agricultural products for the most part such as paddy, corn, rubber and legumes.

“And while we chiefly ship out raw materials, things remains all in all good for our farmers. If we didn’t have Thailand or Vietnam buying our agricultural merchandise, we’d be in deep water given our lack of storage” capacity, Heng said.

The government is pushing for the construction of two border “model markets” in Kampot and Svay Rieng provinces along the shared frontier with Vietnam in a bid to fuel bilateral trade and ratchet up Cambodia’s exports.

This comes after Da Market, the first of this kind, was inaugurated on December 24, 2019, in Tbong Khmum province.

And according to minister Pan Sorasak, Kampot’s model market should break ground by the end of the year near the Prek Chak International Border Checkpoint that links the coastal province to Vietnam’s Kien Giang province.

Heng said the border markets will play a crucial role in promoting the country’s exports to Vietnam. “We’re setting up model markets at the border – the likes of Da Market of Tbong Khmum and Prek Chak Market of Kampot. These model markets are poised to accelerate the export of our agricultural products.

“Of course, the government’s policy [implies that] we shouldn’t want to export raw materials where we lose value-added, but we cannot keep them as we don’t have enough storage capacity.

“Once we’re able to bring in more investors into the processing sector, there’ll be a decline in the export of raw materials,” he added.