Cambodian goods are becoming more prevalent in Thailand, signalling an uptick in demand as the two ASEAN kingdoms work toward boosting annual bilateral trade to more than $15 million in the coming years, by leveraging preferential intraregional trading arrangements, according to Thai commerce officials.

The remarks comes as Customs (GDCE) data revealed that the two kingdoms traded merchandise to the tune of $1.705 billion in the January-May period, marking an 8.78 per cent year-on-year drop amid global economic turbulence.

At the same time, Cambodian goods exports to Thailand reached $480.236 million, up 9.47 per cent year-on-year, while imports totalled $1.225 billion, down 14.38 per cent, narrowing the former’s trade deficit with the latter by 24.93 per cent on an annual basis to $744.546 million.

On June 21, Nirawat Rangseekanjana, minister counsellor at the Thai embassy’s Office of Commercial Affairs in Phnom Penh, commented that the two-way trade between the two kingdoms nevertheless remained relatively strong in the January-May period, and pointed out that Cambodian exports even managed to increase year-on-year.

He was speaking at a press conference on a Thai-Cambodian Business Matching event, which is scheduled to be held in Phnom Penh on June 30 with a focus on “mother and baby products”.

ASEAN has effectively done away with tariffs on more than 90 per cent of goods traded between member states, Nirawat said, noting that Thai demand for Cambodian products like agricultural and textile-related items have been on the rise in recent months.

He attributed the decline in Thai imports to a shift in consumer preference for Cambodian-made alternatives, but was upbeat about hitting the $15 billion target in the near future.

According to the GDCE’s “International Merchandise Trade Statistics” bulletins, the volume of goods trade between Cambodia and Thailand came in at $4.664 billion in 2022, having increased every year since at least 2015, when the kingdoms registered $1.830 billion. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.30 per cent for the seven-year period.

For reference, the corresponding CAGR for the 2015-2018 period was 23.35 per cent, and if bilateral trade were to grow at this rate each year starting in 2023, the target would be breached in 2028 with $16.431 billion.

At the same conference, Thai Business Council in Cambodia (TBCC) president Jiranun Wongmonkol stressed that Cambodia’s product portfolio notwithstanding, there is still a large market for Thai goods.

Still, the comparatively minor decline in bilateral trade highlights Cambodia’s strong economic performance, she argued.

Speaking to The Post on June 21, Sar Sarin, senior vice-president of the Bangkok-based Cambodia Business Council (CBC) emphasised that Thailand remains one of Cambodia’s leading trading partners – ranked fourth in January-May 2023 as well as full-year 2022, behind only mainland China, the US and Vietnam in both cases, according to the GDCE.

“We’ve noticed a gradual growth in our exports to Thailand as we improve the quality of our products. At the CBC, it is my responsibility to line the shelves of Thai supermarkets with more Cambodian products,” he said.

Meanwhile, the commercial minister counsellor stated that the June 30 Thai-Cambodian Business Matching event will provide traders from either country with a forum for direct engagement and partnership-seeking.

The event is anticipated to draw 130 businesspeople, including 30 representatives from 17 Thai companies.