Cambodia and the US traded goods worth $8.510 billion in the first 11 months of 2022, marking gains of 21.79 per cent on-year, with Cambodian exports to the world’s largest economy accounting for a 96.56 per cent share, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

In the January-November period, Cambodian exports amounted to $8.218 billion, up 23.01 per cent year-on-year, and imports $292.798 million, down 4.78 per cent. The Kingdom’s trade surplus with the US for the 11-month period expanded by 24.35 per cent, from $6.373 billion to $7.925 billion.

The US remained the largest buyer of Cambodian goods, constituting a 40.17 per cent market share of the total $20.458 billion, while its exports to the Kingdom accounted for a 1.06 per cent share of the total $27.747 billion.

Last month alone, the two-way merchandise trade came to $620.18 million, down 2.28 per cent from November 2021 but up 4.63 per cent from October 2022. The November figure ended a string of monthly declines recorded since the year-to-date peak of $1.076 billion in July, but remains the second lowest only after October’s.

Similarly, Cambodian exports to the US were to the tune of $599.94 million, down 0.88 per cent year-on-year but up 5.08 per cent month-on-month, and imports $20.24 million, down 31.2 per cent year-on-year and down 7.2 per cent month-on-month.

Speaking to The Post on January 1, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng credited the general increases in Cambodian exports to the US to the Kingdom’s fairly large buyer base, favourable investment laws, and diverse selection of quality merchandise that aligns with consumers’ standards.

He also cited preferential trade arrangements for certain Cambodian goods entering the US, particularly the full tariff exemptions enjoyed by solar cells and specific electrical products.

He was alluding to a declaration of emergency issued on June 6 by US President Joe Biden to impose a 24-month moratorium on new duties on solar cell and module imports from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The move aims to ensure that the US has access to sufficient supply of these items to meet surging electricity demand.

Heng predicted that Cambodian exports to the US will remain on a positive trajectory despite weakened global economic performance.

“I’m optimistic that the Cambodia-US bilateral trade, and especially Cambodian exports, will keep trending up, propelled by significant advances in cooperation made by the two countries as of late,” he said.

Biden’s visit to Cambodia in November for the dual ASEAN summits also inspired considerable confidence among US investors in the Kingdom and opened up a realm of opportunities, he claimed.

According to Heng, the bulk of Cambodian exports to the US comprised garments, footwear and travel goods, electrical and electronic components, and bicycles; while notable imports included machinery, electronic devices and high-tech products, vehicles, and pharmaceuticals.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Hong Vanak commented that exports to the US rose on a yearly basis despite the rather slow global economic growth seen in 2022.

Meaningful dialogue between leaders of the two countries, especially during Biden’s visit to Cambodia, has provided plenty of inspiration for investors and buyers who may have been eyeing the Kingdom, he contended.

He also suggested that the local export community has profited from market share gains from competitors operating in countries dogged by ineffective Covid-19 management or social instability.

Vanak predicted that, going forward, Cambodian goods exports to the US would keep growing and diversifying away from “just textile-related items like it used to be”.

On December 23, Prime Minister Hun Sen paid a surprise visit to the US embassy, meeting ambassador W Patrick Murphy in what local analysts have described as a “rare gesture” that could significantly improve bilateral relations previously marked by differences over contentious issues.

Murphy later that day said in a tweet that 2022 had witnessed a successful Cambodian chairmanship of ASEAN, a historic US-ASEAN Special Summit, and US-ASEAN relations elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).

“We hosted Prime Minister Hun Sen and his delegation today at the US embassy to mark the end of the year and discuss efforts to improve bilateral relations,” he added.

In general terms, a CSP is a broad, detailed, dynamic, long-term, result-oriented agreement between signatories that affirms a high degree of maturity in relations as well as mutual trust and commitment.

Last year, the Cambodia-US merchandise trade came to $7.826 billion, representing a 40.38 per cent surge over 2020, GDCE statistics show.