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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Asean trade hits $2bn

Asean trade hits $2bn

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A Thai truck transports Cambodian corn on an unpaved road towards the border with Thailand near Pailin. Exports to the rest of Asean were dominated by agricultural produce in 2008, particularly to neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam, latest figures show. BLOOMBERG

Asean trade 2008

Cambodian trade with Asean:

  • $2.189bn total trade

    (up 23 percent)

  • $2.067bn total imports
  • $121m total exports
  • $1.946bn trade deficit

    (up from $1.536bn in 2007)

Source: Ministry of Commerce

CAMBODIA'S trade with Asean increased by 23 percent in 2008 to US$2.189 billion up from $1.775 billion the previous year, according to official figures, as the Kingdom's trade deficit with its neighbours expanded close to $2 billion.

Thon Virak, deputy director general of the Directorate General of International Trade at the Ministry of Commerce, told the Post on Monday that the rise in trade volume was mostly in imports of raw materials for the garment sector and steel, while agricultural produce exports increased, especially with neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam.

"I think trade between Cambodia and Asean will be strong because these nations are producing more all the time for export," he said. "Cambodia's production capacity is stronger this year, and Cambodia's products are more widely recognised in Asean."

Though trade has increased sharply, Cambodia still has a large trade deficit with the other nine Asean nations - exports increased by only two percent, while imports were up 25 percent. Imports from Asean in 2008 amounted to $2.067 billion, while exports were just $121 million, according to the Ministry of Commerce, giving a yearly trade deficit of $1.946 billion, with the bloc up from $1.536 billion in 2007.

Chan Sophal, president of Cambodian Economic Association, dismissed concerns over the ballooning trade deficit with Asean, claiming that high garment exports to the West counterbalanced the shortfall.

In terms of boosting trade, traditional export sectors remain the key, he said - agricultural products, garments and tourism - although he added that "trade with Asean won't increase this year because ... of the financial meltdown".

Em Sovannara, head of the international politics section at the International Relations Institute of Cambodia, said on Monday that the trade deficit with Asean had to be addressed "by banning the import of particular products which can be locally produced".

He added: "I think if the government allows the import of more products that can be produced in our country, startup manufacturing will go bust because they [companies] are not encouraged to produce."

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