The Cambodian-Chinese merchandise trade totalled $10.579 billion in the first 11 months of 2022, up 6.31 per cent year-on-year, with imports from China accounting for an 89.51 per cent share, up 3.29 percentage points from the same time in 2021, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

In the January-November period, Cambodian imports from China were to the tune of $9.470 billion, up 10.36 per cent year-on-year, but exports to Chinese shores slid 19.1 per cent to $1.109 billion. The Kingdom’s trade deficit with China for the period expanded just over 15.95 per cent on a yearly basis to $8.360 billion.

In November alone, the merchandise trade came to $954.97 million, down 1.51 per cent year-on-year but up 15.31 per cent month-on-month, while Cambodian exports to China reached $121.58 million, down 18.24 per cent year-on-year, but up 31.57 per cent month-on-month.

Speaking to The Post, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng asserted that Covid-19 era Sino-Cambodian trade had been buoyed by the friendships and commitments shared by the two countries’ leaders, despite the difficult times.

Indeed, GDCE statistics indicate that the merchandise trade between the two Asian countries grew by 30.73 per cent to $11.195 billion in 2021, compared to $8.563 billion in 2019. Also, imports from China accounted for an 86.51 per cent share in 2021, down 1.76 percentage points from the corresponding 2019 figure.

“Trade between the two countries will stay on a positive trajectory going forward, especially if the Chinese government decides to ease Covid-19 restrictions,” Heng forecast.

Backing up his prediction, he noted that Cambodia and China are signatories to a bilateral free trade agreement, the CCFTA, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement – both of which took effect in the two countries on January 1.

Heng added that Chinese Customs has also approved the import of fresh Cambodian agricultural items such as mangoes, bananas, longan and a variety of shark catfish, all of which he said will encourage sales to China.

For reference, Chhuon Chamnan, the agriculture ministry’s director for fisheries post-harvest technologies and quality control, in June identified the aforementioned fish variety to The Post as the iridescent shark catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus).

Heng also described China as a major driving force powering the manufacturing and export industries as a key raw-material supplier, stressing that a notable proportion of all Chinese investors are doing business in Cambodia.

“I hope that more Chinese investors will come and invest in Cambodia soon,” he said.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, propounded that, through bilateral cooperation, the Kingdom has throughout the centuries developed its diplomatic and trade relations with dynastic China and the current Chinese state.

It comes as no surprise that large quantities of Chinese goods end up on the Cambodian market, given China’s large population and strong economic activity, he explained, adding that a huge chunk of imports from China now are raw materials and inputs for the export manufacturing industry.

Be that as it may, local players must make a renewed effort to leverage Cambodia’s agricultural strengths and unlock the Kingdom’s export potential with China, he opined.

He also suggested building up production and processing capacities, as a step to reduce overall import dependence.

“Although the trade volume between the two countries has increased, the declining exports could be seen as bad signs for Cambodia,” Vanak said.

“Cambodia must strive to further diversify its exports, and enhance its export capacity.”

In January-November 2022, Cambodia’s international trade reached $48.205 billion, up 12.80 per cent year-on-year, while imports and exports amounted to $27.747 billion and $20.458 billion, respectively, up 9.19 per cent and 18.09 per cent, narrowing the trade deficit by 9.86 per cent to $7.289 billion, GDCE data show.