The Commerce Ministry yesterday announced a 19 percent surge in exports for the year and a quadrupling of revenue collected from import licence fees, but would not provide analogous figures for total imports or explain what could be driving the increases.
According to the ministry’s annual report, the value of exports under the Generalized System of Preferences – which gives Cambodia favourable trade terms with developed countries – totalled $9.55 billion, a 19.22 percent increase on last year.
“The result is a huge achievement for our exports, the outcome of our hard work in the team,” said Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak. “We’ve tried to build up bilateral relationships in order to reach international markets.”
Sorasak said his ministry would continue to push other potential export products such cassava despite increasingly fraught relationships with key trading partners over the ruling party’s crackdown on the opposition.
The bulk of Cambodia’s exports are garments shipped to the European Union and US. Earlier this month, the European parliament voted to consider suspending Cambodia’s preferential trade access, with its politicians criticising political developments in the Kingdom including the dissolution of the CNRP.
“Even though there is some tension from the EU, it will not affect our markets and exports since everything is already booked,” Sorasak said.
The ministry’s annual report also says the government raised $2 million from issuing import licences – an increase of 336 percent from last year – and $9 million from issuing export licences, a rise of 37 percent.
When asked about the jump in revenue from import licence fees, ministry spokesman Long Kemvichet said the figure was collated from several government authorities so he did not know what was behind the rise.
Mey Kalyan, senior adviser to the Supreme National Economic Council, said the numbers could suggest that imports were growing faster than exports, raising concerns of a growing trade imbalance.
“We need to see: What do we import for? If we’re importing for construction or developing the country, it makes good sense for us. But if it’s for consumption then it means our local capacity is limited when it comes to producing by ourselves,” Kalyan said.
Lim Heng, vice president of Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, said it was imperative to keep exports growing.
“We still hope that our economic growth will keep increasing,” he said. Policies targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises – such the specialised state bank announced earlier this month – would be key to keep driving up exports next year, he said.
A World Bank report released last month says Cambodia’s long-running reliance on garments exports is easing as the sector’s growth slows and other types of manufacturing, such as electronics, strengthens. Tourism is also showing signs of renewed growth, it says.