POLITICAL conflict was not behind a 22.15 percent annualised drop in bilateral trade last year between Cambodia and Thailand, the government’s director general for international trade said Thursday.
According to Thai customs statistics from the Thai Embassy’s Foreign Trade Promotion Office (FTPO), bilateral trade between the two countries plummeted from US$2.13 billion in 2008 to just $1.658 billion in 2009.
Cambodia’s exports to Thailand went down by 13.84 percent to $77.73 million, in 2009, from $90.22 million in 2008. The Kingdom’s imports from Thailand fell by 22.52 percent – to $1.580 billion from $2.040 billion.
Sok Sopheak, director general of international trade for the Ministry of Commerce, said the decline in trade was because of the global economic crisis, which has stymied world demand for goods.
“This downturn did [not] only apply to trade with Thailand but it also affected our trade with other countries,” he said.
The director added that he does not believe the diplomatic conflict between Phnom Penh and Bangkok over the presence in Cambodia of former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra – who was appointed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s economic advisor – was the key factor in the drop.
“I don’t think political conflict is the primary factor behind the decline,” he added. “People at the Thai-Cambodian border still traded with each other despite the dispute.”
Trade between the two countries had previously increased steadily from $1.7 billion in 2006, to $1.4 billion in 2007, to $2.13 billion in 2008.
Cambodia primarily exports agricultural products, secondhand garments, recyclable metal and fish to Thailand. It imports petroleum, consumer products, building materials and cosmetics.
The Kingdom’s total exports, according to a report from the National Bank of Cambodia, fell an annualised 18.2 percent in 2009 to $3.619 billion. Imports fell 17 percent to $5.208 billion.
Sok Sopheak said he hopes that the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, which came into force on January 1, will accelerate trade among ASEAN’s nations as trade tariffs are lowered throughout Southeast Asia.
Jiranan Wongmongkol, director of the FTPO, was not available for comment Thursday.