The bilateral trade volume between Cambodia and Vietnam topped $6 billion in the first seven months of 2021, more than doubling over the same period last year even, as both countries amp up their battles against the novel coronavirus and its more virulent variants.

Unless virus outbreaks worsen or an economic downturn of unusual and unexpected proportions occurs, two-way trade should be on track to hit the $10 billion target – set by the leaders of both government for 2023 – by the end of this year.

The Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh on September 1 said via Facebook that the two nations are “reliable partners” in the promotion of cooperation, based on equality, efficiency and mutual benefit for sustainable development for the people of both countries.

In the January-July period, Cambodia-Vietnam trade reached $6.034 billion, increasing by 106 per cent year-on-year, according to the embassy.

Its data show that Cambodian exports to Vietnam accounted for $3.2661 billion, rising 452 per cent year-on-year, and imports were valued at $2.773 billion, up by 18.3 per cent year-on-year.

These figures indicate that a $1.75 billion trade deficit in January-July 2020 was turned into a more than $490 million trade surplus in the same period this year.

The embassy said: “The investment activities of Vietnamese enterprises in Cambodia are not only successful in business, but they also contribute to the economic and social development of Cambodia, which is highly appreciated by the Cambodian leadership and people.”

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng noted that Vietnam is buying significantly more of most of its main agricultural imports from the Kingdom.

He said Cambodia primarily exports agricultural products to Vietnam such as paddy rice, rubber, sesame, corn, cashew nuts and Faboideae legumes, and imports steel, oil, fruits, vegetables and fertilisers.

“Cambodian agricultural products, were it not for the markets of neighbouring countries, would saturate the domestic market,” he said, voicing confidence that the Kingdom’s exports to neighbouring countries would remain on a significant growth trajectory for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the Cambodian 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 of Commerce Pan Sorasak, Kampot’s “model market” should break ground by the end of this year near the Prek Chak International Border Checkpoint that links the coastal province to Vietnam’s Kien Giang province.

According to the embassy, Vietnam has 188 investment projects in Cambodia with a total capital of $2.85 billion, ranking second among 78 countries and territories in which Vietnam has invested.

Laos is currently the largest recipient of Vietnamese investment, and Cambodia overtook Russia earlier this year to secure the second spot, according to data from the Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment’s Foreign Investment Agency.

Embassy statistics show that Cambodia has 28 investment projects in Vietnam with a total capital of $70.62 billion, ranking 52nd out of 140 countries and territories with investment projects in the country.

According to data from the Ministry of Commerce, Cambodia exported merchandise to Vietnam to the tune of $385.79 million last year, surging by 14.88 per cent from $335.82 million in 2019. Imports from Vietnam, however, fell over three per cent to $2.634 billion, from $2.718 billion in 2019.

This would mean that the trade deficit narrowed nearly six per cent over the year, from $2.38 billion to $2.25 billion.