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Garment exports rise as trade gap widens

Garment exports rise as trade gap widens

Global economic growth boosted Cambodia’s exports nearly 50 percent in the first quarter compared year on year, though the trade deficit expanded during the period, Ministry of Commerce officials said.

Exports increased 49.6 percent to US$1.13 billion between January and March, up from $756.6 million the year before, according to the figures.

The growth was driven by an increase in garments and textiles, but also agricultural products, according to Ministry of Commerce Secretary of State Ok Boung.

“The world economy is recovering. So our exports increase as demand goes up,” he said. He added the Kingdom had improved its business environment since the period of the financial downturn.

Garments and textiles, Cambodia’s main export, rose 45.5 percent in the first quarter to a total of $976 million from $670.9 million.

Agricultural products, including milled and unmilled rice, corn, cassava, rubber and processed timber, climbed to $112.8 million, a rise of more than 238 percent from the same period in 2010, ministry statistics show.

Meanwhile, total imports for the first quarter increased 71 percent to $1.55 billion from $908.5 million in the first quarter of 2010. Imports included raw materials for garments, food, petroleum, vehicles, construction materials and medicine.

Huot Pum, an economics professor at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phnom Penh, called the figures a sign that Cambodia is increasingly capable of producing goods that other countries want.

That means “we can increase our share in the global market,” he said.

Growth in importing raw materials for the garment industry was one reason behind the increasing trade deficit, he said.

“That’s why we see that when exports grow, imports follow. Because we don’t yet have the ability to produce those materials [for the garment industry],” he said.

An official at the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce credited the country’s business-friendly regulations for the jump in commerce.

“Right now a lot of foreign businessmen are contacting us because our government has proved to them they are serious about attracting outside investors, and that makes them want to do business here,” said Nguon Meng Tech, Director General at the CCC.

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