Mainland China accounted for more than one-third of the value of Cambodia’s imports in the first half of this year, sales which have substantially driven economic growth in the Kingdom and supported conditions for employment sustainability, according to economists and businessmen.

Cambodia imported $5.37428 billion worth of goods from mainland China in the January-June period – up by 24.175 per cent year-on-year from $4.32799 billion – representing the largest share or 33.88 per cent of total exports, which clocked in at $15.864 billion, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

In the Greater China market, the Kingdom also imported $560.626 million and $521.615 million worth of merchandise from Taiwan and Hong Kong, respectively, representing 3.534 and 3.288 per cent shares. GDCE did not provide data for Macau.

Vietnam was the second biggest seller to Cambodia during the period at $2.08643 billion, or 13.152 per cent of the total, followed by Singapore ($2.0167 billion; 12.71 per cent), Thailand ($1.80132 billion; 11.4 per cent). The Kingdom also imported considerable amounts from Switzerland, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, the US and India.

Last month alone, Chinese exports to Cambodia were to the tune of $903.84 million, down by 2.7 per cent from the $928.87 million recorded in June 2021.

Speaking to The Post on July 14, Ky Sereyvath, economics researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) and director of the RAC’s China Studies Center, suggested that rising import figures were not inherently a cause for concern.

Sereyvath pointed out that the growing inflow of Chinese products were part of Cambodia’s broader efforts to diversify its import basket beyond its historically dominant sources – nearby markets such as Thailand and Vietnam – and ensure that goods available domestically are affordable and in line with demand.

He also argued that the bulk of Cambodia’s purchases from mainland China were comparatively-economic raw materials that would push down production costs and lift the Kingdom’s export capacity, especially when it comes to textiles and allied products.

“When production costs are low, that also helps to sharpen the competitive edge of Cambodian exports on international markets,” he said, underscoring that mainland China has emerged as a key supplier of raw materials, not only for the Kingdom, but many other countries.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng remarked that the textile-related sectors are considered priority economic growth pillars and safeguards for sustainable employment, especially so during the Covid-19 crisis.

Heng echoed Sereyvath’s comments, saying that the majority of imports from mainland China comprise fabrics, yarns and other materials to supply export-oriented textile-related factories.

“Even though imports from China have been plentiful, that’s not a concern because most of them are used in the production or processing [of merchandise] to be sold on international markets,” he said.

In 2021, Cambodia imported $9.68434 billion worth of goods from China, up by 36.5 per cent over 2020, and exported $1.51053 billion, rising by 38.8 per cent, according to the GDCE. The Kingdom’s trade deficit with China expanded by 36 per cent last year to $8.1738 billion.