Trade between Cambodia and Japan reached $1.10977 billion in the first half of 2021, up 9.57 per cent year-on-year from $1.01281 billion, according to data from the Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro).

Of that, Cambodian exports to Japan amounted to $814.53 million, a marginal 2.7 per cent year-on-year increase from $794.19 million, and imports were valued at $295.23 million, up 35 per cent on a yearly basis from $218.61 million.

The trade surplus narrowed 9.8 per cent to $519.3 million from $76.6 million.

Jetro listed garments, electrical and electronic components, and agricultural products as key Cambodian exports to Japan, and machinery and high-tech products as the main imports.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post on August 16 that although the global Covid-19 pandemic has not yet run its course, trade in both directions has staged a gradual recovery, from a simultaneous plunge last year.

He said the marked upswing, experienced since the beginning of the year, bodes well for the overall status of Cambodia-Japan trade relations, and is expected to further accelerate when direct flights between the two countries resume.

“After establishing free trade agreements [FTA] with China and [South] Korea, I expect that Cambodia will also be able to strike another with Japan. Once this deal is in place, exports and imports between the two countries will surely grow at an even faster rate than at present,” Heng said.

He argued that the rise in imports from Japan, and hence the shrinking trade surplus, was not an inherently negative development for the Cambodian economy.He pointed out that the merchandise shipped in from Japan consisted predominantly of mechanical and electronic devices, which he considers vital tools for optimising production chains in the Kingdom.

“All these products can be integrated into the machinery for the production of exports to international markets,” he said.

Logistics Business Association president Chea Chandara said trade growth was amplified by improvements in, inter alia, the productivity and calibre of Cambodian goods, domestic consumer confidence in the quality of Japanese products, as well as diplomatic ties.

Given the scale of the developed East Asian country’s market, Cambodia is in a strong position to inject fresh impetus into economic growth by attracting more Japanese investment in new factories across the Kingdom, he said.

“The trade volume between the two countries will be even bigger if the two countries can establish a bilateral FTA. Then there’ll be more investors entering the Cambodian market to produce for export to Japan,” Chandara said.

To boost export capacity, the Kingdom must also strive to diversify its portfolio of products, and meet or exceed a variety of quality standards or other requirements, he said.

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Japan was worth $2.10178 billion last year, down 8.35 per cent from 2019, data from Jetro show.

Cambodia exported $1.61708 billion worth of merchandise to Japan last year, down 6.6 per cent, and imported $484.70 million, down 13.8 per cent. The Kingdom’s trade surplus with Japan was $1.1324 billion.