Cambodia’s total merchandise exports reached $22.483 billion in 2022, rising by 16.44 per cent over 2020, narrowing its international trade deficit by 20.60 per cent to $7.459 billion, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

The 2022 international merchandise trade came in at $52.425 billion, up 9.19 per cent on a yearly basis, with imports accounting for $29.942 billion, up 4.32 per cent.

GDCE figures show that exports have increased each year since at least 2016 – 16.71 per cent in 2016, 13.01 per cent in 2017, 12.54 per cent in 2018, 16.79 per cent in 2019, 24.36 per cent in 2020, 5.27 per cent in 2021, and most recently, 16.44 per cent or nearly one-sixth in 2022.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng believes that the trend will continue in 2023, as the Kingdom’s bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements (FTA) and preferential trade arrangements with the EU and US springboard local products into the international marketplace.

He also assured that the trade deficit is not a significant cause for concern, arguing that imports largely comprise raw materials and components used in the production of export goods, or in the construction of infrastructure aimed at promoting investment in the Kingdom.

“I believe that revenues from Cambodia’s exports will continue to increase in 2023, as the number of new investment projects keeps ticking up,” Heng said.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, remarked that the double-digit increase in merchandise exports underscores the relative strength of the Cambodian economy, despite the stagnation seen elsewhere as a result of Covid-19, elevated oil prices, the Ukraine conflict, and geopolitical conflicts between major powers.

Federation of Associations for Small and Medium Enterprises of Cambodia president Te Taingpor said production activity in the Kingdom has “moved forward” since the beginning of 2022, even in light of disruptions linked to Covid and geopolitical tensions reported abroad.

In 2023, domestic production systems will be optimised and more merchandise will be shipped abroad, he predicted, commenting that Cambodia’s relative freedom from the fallout of international crises has enabled its economy to record significant positive growth.

Nonetheless, lower domestic fuel and electricity prices would further encourage more production and investment, he contended.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on January 7 estimated the 2022 growth in gross domestic product (GDP) at 5.5 per cent, and pegged the 2023 figure at 6.6 per cent, reasoning that although Covid-related impacts persist, economic conditions are improving and en route to normalcy.

Similarly, the government expects GDP per capita to grow from an estimated $1,785 in 2022 to $1,924 in 2023.

And in a December 7 statement, the World Bank forecast Cambodia’s economic growth at 4.8 per cent in 2022 and 5.2 per cent for 2023, “as increased hiring supports rising domestic consumption and as inflation recedes”.

In 2021, Cambodia’s international merchandise trade amounted to $48.012 billion, up 28.23 per cent over 2020, with imports and exports respectively at $28.703 billion and $19.309 billion, up 50.28 per cent and 5.27 per cent, according to the GDCE.

The Kingdom’s trade deficit expanded by a factor of 12.40, from just $757.770 million to a whopping $9.394 billion.