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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Trade with Hong Kong sank 16pc in January

Trade with Hong Kong sank 16pc in January

Struggling garment sector blamed for drop in bilateral trade

BILATERAL trade between Cambodia and Hong Kong plummeted around 16 percent in the first month of 2010 compared to January 2009, statistics showed.

Data released by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) Saturday stated that the total bilateral trade was US$36 million in January 2010, a drop of 16 percent compared to total estimated trade of $43 million for the same period of 2009. No figures for 2008 were given.

Hong Kong exports fell 18.5 percent to $34 million, and Cambodian exports were said to have risen in turn by 144.5 percent to $2 million. The Kingdom’s exports of footwear were said to have increased by 616.5 percent and men’s knitted fabric went up 151 percent.

The figures were a slight improvement to the 22.2 percent annualised dip, to $480 million in 2009 from $608 million to 2008, recorded for total bilateral trade made between the Kingdom and the Chinese special administrative region last year. Hong Kong’s total annual exports to Cambodia fell an annualised 23.1 percent to $467 million in 2009 from $608 million. Cambodia’s exports to Hong Kong increased 29.8 percent to $13 million [of which re-export was worth $6 million] from $10 million.

Nguon Meng Tech, director general for the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC), said Monday the decline in trade was fueled by the closure of Cambodian garment factories last year – Hong Kong acts as a transit point between Cambodia and other nations in the textile industry.

“Most investors from Hong Kong had interests in garment industry in Cambodia when the sector was impacted by the global financial crisis,” he said.

The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training reported that at least 106 garment and shoe factories closed and another 66 factories suspended operations in Cambodia last year, leaving about 90,000 employees out of work.

This is likely to have impacted Hong Kong’s major exports to the Kingdom. Cambodian imports of textile yarn declined 40.7 percent last month, compared to January 2009, while clothing accessories were down 34.5 percent, and textile and leather machinery declined 46.3 percent. Exports of passenger cars declined by 53.2 percent but veterinary products rose by 182.5 percent and office machinery by 330.5 percent.

Despite mixed messages from the latest statistics, government officials remain hopeful for the future.

Ministry of Commerce Secretary of State Ok Boung told the Post Monday that since the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area was introduced in January, trade in the region had improved.

“People in the ASEAN nations are beginning to know about Cambodia – that’s why our exports to ASEAN as well as to Hong Kong have gone up," he said.

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