The value of Cambodia’s total goods exports in the first half of the year reached $11.464 billion, up more than 0.75 per cent on an annual basis from $11.379 billion and up nearly 3.25 per cent from $11.104 billion in the second half of 2022, according to Customs (GDCE). June was the first month in which the year-to-date export total did not decrease year-on-year.

This total was buoyed by year-on-year increases of 7.94 per cent and 15.98 per cent in May and June, respectively, following four consecutive months of declines, according to provisional GDCE data compiled in “International Merchandise Trade Statistics” bulletins, the latest of which were published on July 10.

Cambodia’s international trade volume hit $23.694 billion in January-June 2023, down 13.03 per cent year-on-year from $27.244 billion and down 5.91 per cent half-on-half from $25.181 billion.

Imports made up 51.61 per cent of that, coming in at $12.229 billion, slumping by 22.92 per cent year-on-year from nearly $15.865 billion as well as by 13.13 per cent half-on-half from $14.077 billion.

The Kingdom’s trade deficit – the amount by which a country’s imports exceed its exports – for the six-month period came in at $764.701 million, shrinking by more than 82.95 per cent year-on-year from $4.486 billion as well as by 74.28 per cent on a semi-annual basis from $2.973 billion.

This was the best semi-annual trade balance figure since the $132.36 million surplus registered in the second half of 2020, when imports and exports amounted to $9.851 billion and $9.982 billion, respectively.

Cambodia’s top trading partner for the first half of 2023 was once again mainland China with $6.153 billion, up 2.80 per cent year-on-year, followed by the US ($4.356B; down 9.57%), Vietnam ($3.302B; up 1.25%) and Thailand ($1.976B; down 13.99%).

Next on the list were Japan ($860.276M; down 7.91%), Singapore ($786.774M; down 62.16%), Indonesia ($594.370M; up 27.76%), Germany ($553.529M; down 9.18%), Canada ($444.608M; down 23.74%) and Taiwan ($413.623M; down 32.10%).

Royal Academy of Cambodia economist Hong Vanak commented to The Post on July 10 that concerns over the Ukraine crisis and other geopolitical conflicts among major powers had triggered declines in foreign trade practically everywhere from mid-2022 to early 2023. However, these jitters appear to have essentially faded away, he claimed.

Vanak attributed the step-up in the Kingdom’s goods exports to an uptick in overseas purchase orders as well as increased domestic manufacturing and production capacity, which he argued may also partially explain the drop in imports.

“I’m optimistic that Cambodian exports will keep expanding. But more importantly, Cambodia must strive to develop and improve the quality of its products, particularly agricultural items, which are emerging as high-potential export commodities,” he stressed.

According to the GDCE, in June alone, Cambodian goods exports totalled $2.281 billion, up 15.98 per cent year-on-year from $1.967 billion, up 12.63 per cent half-on-half from more than $2.025 billion, up 8.27 per cent quarter-on-quarter from $2.107 billion, and up 17.01 per cent month-on-month from $1.949 billion. This was the best export month since July 2022 ($2.391B).

That month’s imports, on the other hand, came in at $2.120 billion, down 24.49 per cent year-on-year from $2.808 billion, down 3.39 per cent half-on-half from nearly $2.195 billion, down 7.73 per cent quarter-on-quarter from $2.298 billion, and down 2.84 per cent month-on-month from $2.182 million. This was still up 2.58 per cent from the April figure, however.

For reference, the January-April period saw monthly year-on-year declines in exports of nearly 13.95 per cent, 3.18 per cent, 0.68 per cent and 2.51 per cent, respectively.

Meanwhile, Federation of Associations for Small and Medium Enterprises of Cambodia president Te Taingpor also credited the rise in exports to increased domestic production capacity and overseas purchase orders.

He remarked that more domestic and foreign investors are betting on Cambodia, thanks to constant improvements to the Kingdom’s investment laws and regulatory framework, sizeable domestic labour market with competitive wages, and trade deals with several countries.

Taingpor anticipated that exports, “especially of agricultural, handicraft and industrial products”, would remain in positive growth territory for the foreseeable future.

Nonetheless, Taingpor contended that decreasing energy prices might underpin stronger export momentum by driving down associated costs, which he emphasised is an essential part of improving price competitiveness on the global market.

Provisional GDCE figures show that Cambodia’s international goods trade amounted to nearly $52.425 billion last year, up 9.19 per cent on 2021 and up almost 174.55 per cent against 2015.

The Kingdom exported and imported $22.483 billion and $29.942 billion, respectively, up 16.44 per cent and 4.32 per cent on a yearly basis, narrowing the trade deficit by 20.60 per cent to $7.459 billion.