The merchandise trade between Cambodia and mainland China reached $1.705 billion in the first two months of 2023, marking a 15.09 per cent year-on-year drop, with imports from the East Asian market accounting for an 88.39 per cent share, down 1.18 percentage points on a yearly basis, according to provisional Customs (GDCE) data.

In the January-February period, Cambodian imports from and exports to mainland China were to the tune of $1.507 billion and $198.063 million, respectively, down 16.21 per cent and 5.5 per cent year-on-year, narrowing the Kingdom’s trade deficit with its top trading partner by 17.62 per cent on a yearly basis to $1.309 billion.

Mainland China was also Cambodia’s top import source, as well as the fifth-largest export destination, after the US ($1.130 billion), Vietnam ($491.180 million), Japan ($205.654 million) and Thailand ($204.461 million).

Last month alone, the bilateral merchandise trade came to $732.56 million, down 10.43 per cent from February 2022 and down 24.69 per cent from January 2023.

Cambodian imports from mainland China reached $615.605 million, down 13.60 per cent year-on-year and down 30.96 per cent month-on-month, while exports were $116.956 million, up 11.00 per cent year-on-year and up 44.20 per cent month-on-month.

The Kingdom registered a monthly trade deficit with mainland China of $498.65 million in February, shrinking by 17.87 per cent year-on-year and 38.48 per cent month-on-month.

Bumper 2022

In 2022, mainland China once again emerged as Cambodia’s largest merchandise trading partner, with a record full-year volume of $11.686 billion – up 4.39 per cent over 2021 – of which Chinese exports to the Kingdom accounted for an 89.38 per cent share, up 2.87 percentage points on a yearly basis.

The East Asian jurisdiction represented 22.29 per cent of Cambodia’s total international merchandise trade for the year, which was to the tune of $52.425 billion.

The Chinese mainland was the largest exporter to Cambodia, with a 34.89 per cent share at $10.446 billion – up 7.86 per cent over 2021. The region also accounted for 5.52 per cent of the Kingdom’s total exports, at $1.241 billion – down 17.85 per cent – putting it behind just the US ($8.969 billion) and Vietnam ($2.169 billion).

The Kingdom’s trade deficit with mainland China grew by 12.61 per cent, from $8.174 billion in 2021 to $9.205 billion in 2022, GDCE statistics indicate.

The breakdown

No breakdown was immediately available of the specific items traded between Cambodia and mainland China for any interval during the 2022-2023 period.

However, according to Trading Economics, out of Cambodia’s $1.51 billion worth of goods exports to mainland China in 2021, “furskins and artificial fur, manufactures” accounted for the most at $404.87 million, followed by “cereals” ($182.29 million), “edible fruits, nuts, peel of citrus fruit, melons” ($176.68 million), and “articles of apparel, knit or crocheted” ($119.46 million).

The next seven items were: “copper” ($82.10 million), “articles of apparel, not knit or crocheted” ($74.77 million), “electrical, electronic equipment” ($72.38 million), “footwear, gaiters and the like” ($63.37 million), “machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers” ($60.92 million), “articles of leather, animal gut, harness, travel good” ($41.37 million), and “vegetable, fruit, nut food preparations” ($39.68 million).

For reference, the 11 categories respectively correspond to chapters 43, 10, 8, 61, 74, 62, 85, 64, 84, 42 and 20 of the Harmonised System (HS) of Tariff Nomenclature.

And out of Cambodia’s $9.68 billion worth of goods imports from mainland China in 2021, “knitted or crocheted fabric” accounted for the most at $1.81 billion, followed by “manmade staple fibres” ($857.54 million), “machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers” ($757.34 million), and “electrical, electronic equipment” ($736.63 million).

The next eight items were: “plastics” ($611.06 million), “pharmaceutical products” ($420.72 million), “articles of iron or steel” ($412.98 million), “cotton” ($391.35 million), “aluminium” ($275.35 million), “miscellaneous chemical products” ($246.67 million), “vehicles other than railway, tramway” ($232.94 million), and “wood and articles of wood, wood charcoal” ($226.63 million).

These 12 categories respectively correspond to chapters 60, 55, 84, 85, 39, 30, 73, 52, 76, 38, 87 and 44 of the HS.