Cambodia exported $17.258 billion worth of commodities in the first nine months of 2022, up by 22.06 per cent from the $14.139 billion recorded in the same period last year, despite global economic uncertainty spurred by the Ukraine conflict coupled with lingering Covid-19-related shocks.

The General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE) on October 10 reported that in the January-September period, Cambodia’s international commodities trade hit $41.023 billion, up 18.01 per cent year-on-year, with imports to the tune of $23.764 billion, up 15.24 per cent. The Kingdom’s trade deficit for the period expanded 0.36 per cent to $6.506 billion.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng underscored that there is significant demand for the Kingdom’s products in the US, European countries and other markets that do not share a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Kingdom.

Regardless, Heng said, bilateral FTAs with China and South Korea and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have stimulated Cambodian exports, leading to the sizeable uptick recorded in the first nine months of the year, which he claimed “reflects the government’s efforts to implement” the trade pacts with partner countries.

“This increase also reflects the government’s effectiveness in controlling the spread of Covid-19, which is a key factor in boosting economic activity and the manufacturing sector,” he said.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath said the Kingdom has witnessed greater growth in recent months, buoyed by a sustained growth in textile-related sectors and the acceleration of agricultural exports to China as well as Thailand, Vietnam and other ASEAN markets.

“This growth suggests that the state of our economy is in a good growth period. At the same time, we saw that the rise in exports was not limited to the US or European markets, but extended to regional and Asian markets, illustrating the results of our market diversification efforts,” he said.

Late last month, the World Bank raised its 2022 growth forecast for Cambodia’s real gross domestic product (GDP) to 4.8 per cent, from 4.5 per cent in April, as a rise in the export of garments, footwear and travel goods (GTF), bicycles and agricultural items continue to underpin post-Covid-19 economic recovery.

“In the second quarter of 2022, the economic recovery gained momentum as investment and trade expanded. Approved FDI [foreign direct investment] project value reached $315 million in the second quarter of 2022,” the Washington-based development lender said in its latest Macro Poverty Outlook (MPO).

The MPO added that non-gold merchandise exports “accelerated further, expanding at 33.0 per cent year-on-year during the first seven months of 2022, driven mainly by a recovery of [GTF] exports.

“GTF exports to the US, Cambodia’s largest exports market, remained robust, growing at 39.1 per cent year-on-year during the first seven months of 2022. The services sector, especially the travel and tourism sector also improved.

“Driven by rising food and fuel prices, consumer price inflation surged. However, inflation eased to 5.4 per cent in July 2022, down from 7.8 per cent in June 2022. The exchange rate continued to be stable at 4,100 riel per US dollar,” it added.