Cambodia earned $164.111 million from the export of “furniture, lighting signs, prefabricated buildings” in the first four months of 2023, down 28.82 per cent year-on-year from $230.544 million and down 52.01 per cent half-on-half (compared to July-October 2022) from $341.97 million, according to provisional Customs (GDCE) data in “International Merchandise Trade Statistics” bulletins.

This category of items, corresponding to Chapter 94 of the Harmonised System (HS) of Tariff Nomenclature, accounted for 2.269 per cent of the $7.234 billion value of the Kingdom’s total merchandise exports over the four months – compared to 3.031 per cent and $7.606 billion in January-April 2022, as well as 4.641 per cent and $7.368 billion in July-October 2022.

Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) economist Hong Vanak commented to The Post on June 5 that global economic uncertainty has had profound effects on international trade flows worldwide.

This has dragged down Cambodia’s export potential in all but basically one sector – agriculture, which produces a fair share of daily necessities, he said, adding that consumers will hold off on purchasing less-essential goods until the economy and household finances allow.

On the flip side, imports, exports and manufacturing are poised to stage a marked rebound in the near future, propelled by the government’s increased focus on infrastructure development in the past three or four years, particularly if the Ukraine conflict or other international crises were to ease, he asserted.

At the same time, free trade agreements (FTA) will help attract more investors to Cambodia, especially the deals with China (CCFTA) and South Korea (CKFTA) as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Vanak claimed.

In April alone, the Kingdom exported $45.078 million worth of “furniture, lighting signs, prefabricated buildings”, down 27.88 per cent from $62.505 million in April 2022 (year-on-year), up 12.3 per cent from $40.143 million in October 2022 (half-on-half), up 21.84 per cent from $36.998 million in January 2023 (quarter-on-quarter), and down 0.10 per cent from $45.124 million in March 2023 (month-on-month), according to the GDCE.

This monthly figure was down 75.5 per cent from the record $184.253 million registered in July 2022, as indicated by GDCE statistics for the 2015-2023 period. The next highest values on record for the aforementioned timeframe are $177.406 million (June 2022), $163.890 million (August 2021), $150.171 million (July 2021), and $126.808 million (July 2020).

Chapter 94 items accounted for 2.447 per cent of the $1.842 billion value of the Kingdom’s total exports in April 2023 – compared to 3.308 per cent and $1.889 billion in April 2022, 2.696 per cent and $1.489 billion in October 2022, 2.360 per cent and $1.568 billion in January 2023, and 2.142 per cent and $2.107 billion in March 2023.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) director-general Nguon Meng Tech remarked that the Kingdom’s favourable geographical location and investment laws, coupled with a wide choice of export destinations have enabled a continual influx of new investors across the full spectrum of sectors.

He highlighted the rising diversity of new investment projects and the growing employment of advanced technologies and skilled labour in production.

“Orders will rise in line with the resurgence in demand for these products [Chapter 94 items] as the global economy gains momentum,” he said.

According to the GDCE, Cambodia in 2022 exported “furniture, lighting signs, prefabricated buildings” to the tune of $948.258 million – up 8.7 per cent from $872.563 million in 2021 and up 39.7-fold from $23.877 million in 2015 – making up 4.218 per cent of the $22.483 billion registered in total outbound merchandise trade.

Although the GDCE bulletins did not provide figures by importing market, statistics from online platform Trading Economics indicate that the US bought $832.76 million or 95.44 per cent of the $872.56 million worth of Cambodian Chapter 94 exports reported for 2021.

For reference, the full title of Chapter 94 is “furniture; bedding, mattresses, mattress supports, cushions and similar stuffed furnishings; lamps and lighting fittings, not elsewhere specified or included; illuminated signs, illuminated name-plates and the like; prefabricated buildings”.