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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kingdom’s trade deficit widens

Kingdom’s trade deficit widens

Kingdom’s trade deficit widens

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Workers at a sportswear factory in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia's total exports increased more than 13 per cent in the first nine months of this year, with a year-on-year comparison indicating a widening trade deficit.

A private-sector representative, an exporter and an independent economist said the slow growth was mainly due to the slowing of the European and US economies.

Official data from the Ministry of Commerce shows total exports worth $4 billion over the first nine months of the year, compared with $3.6 billion in the same period last year — a 13 per cent increase.

Nguon Meng Tech, director-general of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, said the slowdown of economies in main export markets was still damping consumption.

“This will definitely affect the growth of our exports to them, as their people are cutting expenditure,” he said.

Business Research Institute for Cambodia CEO Hiroshi Suzuki echoed Tech’s sentiments.

“I am very happy to see that exports are still increasing. I have been afraid of the negative effect of the economic slowdown on the world, especially in the EU,” he said.

The data shows that total exports of garment and textiles in the first nine months rose about 10 per cent, from $3.13 billion to $3.44 billion.

The total value of exported agricultural products decreased  more than 10 per cent, from $315 million to $283 million, but other exports rose 140 per cent from $136 million to $326 million.

Van Sou Ieng, chairman of Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia, also acknowleged the slow growth of garment and textile exports to the US and Europe but said the association was looking to export to more Asian countries.

“It’s become normal for us. As you can see, the European and US economies are still not good, but we’re looking at the Chinese market. Although we haven’t exported a lot to China, we are making progress,” Ieng said.

“Moreover, we’ve also noticed our exports to Japan keep growing due to a lot of Japanese companies opening factories here.”

Ieng said that so far this year, between 70 and 80 factories had been opened in Cambodia, citing low labour costs and attractive tax incentives as the main drivers for attracting newcomers.

But he raised concerns over labour shortages making it difficult to fulfil the staffing needs of new factories.

Cambodia’s total imports were worth $6.045 billion compared to $4.825 billion — a rise of 25.28 per cent, or about $2 billion in trade deficit, according to the data.

Suzuki said it was not unusual for developing countries, including Cambodia, to have some trade deficit.  

Suzuki also said Cambodia had been successful in attracting Japanese companies to its manufacturing sector.

“I am confident this kind of trend will provide a very positive effect to Cambodian exports and to its entire economy,” he said.

“I hope the government will continue the efforts to improve Cambodia’s investment environment to attract more FDI, particularly from Japanese manufacturing firms.”

To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara at [email protected]

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