Cambodia exported $527.886 million worth of merchandise to Thailand in the first half (H1) of 2023, up 6.48 per cent from $495.778 million in 2022H1 and up 57.11 per cent from $335.99 million in 2022H2, according to Customs (GDCE).
The volume of goods exchanged between the two kingdoms in 2023H1 amounted to $1.976 billion, down 13.99 per cent year-on-year from $2.297 billion and down 16.54 per cent half-on-half from $2.367 billion, respectively, provisional GDCE data compiled in “International Merchandise Trade Statistics” bulletins show.
Cambodia’s imports from ASEAN’s second largest economy accounted for 73.28 per cent of that, standing at $1.448 billion, down 19.63 per cent year-on-year from $1.801 billion and down 28.72 per cent half-on-half from $2.031 billion.
Cambodia recorded a trade deficit – the amount by which a country’s imports exceed its exports – of $919.889 million with Thailand for 2023H1, narrowing by 29.54 per cent year-on-year from $1.306 billion as well as by 45.74 per cent half-on-half from $1.695 billion.
Thailand was Cambodia’s fourth biggest goods trading partner in 2023H1, representing 8.34 per cent, 4.60 per cent and 11.84 per cent of its totals for international trade ($23.694B), exports ($11.464B) and imports ($12.229B) for the six-month period, according to the GDCE.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post on July 12 that improved domestic factory capacity and augmented agricultural output have boosted Cambodian exports virtually everywhere, especially to neighbouring countries.
Some of the more interesting regular exports to Thailand include cassava, corn and other produce and natural resources, as well as electrical and electronic components made in border factories, he said, mentioning that it is not unheard of for manufacturers active in Thailand to branch out into Cambodia.
“Middlemen buy up farmers’ produce each harvest season to resell on the Thai market due to a lack of storage and processing facilities in Cambodia,” he added.
Heng also made note of the fact that, on a typical year, hundreds of thousands of tourists of either nationality travel to the other country.
Official statistics show that 910,696 Cambodian nationals visited Thailand in 2019, whereas 466,493 Thais visited Cambodia – 414,079 (88.76%) of them with “holiday” marked as their purpose of visit. Last year, 379,665 Cambodians would visit Thailand, while Thai visitors to Cambodia clocked in at 853,376, with 819,081 (95.98%) in for “holiday”.
According to the GDCE, in June alone, Cambodian goods exports to Thailand hit $47.651 million, down 16.51 per cent year-on-year from $57.073 million, down 37.02 per cent half-on-half from $75.665 million, down 63.26 per cent quarter-on-quarter from $129.701 million, and down nearly 45.1 per cent month-on-month from $86.773 million.
Imports from the third-largest country in ASEAN closed June at $222.993 million, down 39.87 per cent year-on-year from $370.872 million, down 23.23 per cent half-on-half from $290.481 million, down 18.48 per cent quarter-on-quarter from $273.553 million, and down 16.12 per cent month-on-month from $265.833 million.
Thailand was Cambodia’s 11th largest export destination and number-three import source in June, representing 6.15 per cent, 2.09 per cent and 10.52 per cent of its international trade ($4.401B), exports ($2.281B) and imports ($2.120B), respectively, GDCE numbers show.
In a recent interview with The Post, Sar Sarin, senior vice-president of Bangkok-based Cambodia Business Council (CBC), chalked up the 18.31 per cent on-year growth in the January-November Cambodian-Thai merchandise trade to closer ties between the neighbouring kingdoms, as well as a rebound in economic activity brought on by the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.
“Our countries maintain a very close relationship in economic and diplomatic terms – that’s the key factor driving bilateral trade. With Covid-19 easing, we’ve seen foreign tourists return to both of our countries along with subsequent increases in demand, and business activity has been bouncing back,” he said.
Sarin used the occasion to highlight the part his more than two year old institution plays in promoting promising Cambodian products and opportunities to Thai-based businesspeople and investors. “We’ve been working with the Thai business community to promote our products to the Thai market, as we’re looking to ratchet up our exports, rather than imports,” he said.
Ministry of Tourism data shows that Thais made up nearly 33.55 per cent of the 2,163,782 international visitors to Cambodia in the January-May period, at 725,901, which marked a 382.66 per cent increase from the 150,396 posted in the same time in 2019.
GDCE figures indicate that Thailand was Cambodia’s fourth largest merchandise trading partner in 2022, registering a bilateral trade volume of $4.664 billion, up 14.22 per cent from $4.084 billion in 2021 and up 154.90 per cent from $1.830 billion in 2015.
Cambodia’s exports to and imports from the neighbouring kingdom were to the tune of $831.772 million and $3.833 billion, respectively, up 34.11 per cent and up 10.66 per cent against 2021, expanding the former’s trade deficit with the latter by 5.54 per cent on an annual basis to $3.001 billion.
No breakdown was immediately available of the particular items traded between Cambodia and Thailand at any point during the 2022-2023 period.
However, Trading Economics statistics show that, out of Cambodia’s $360.52 million worth of goods exports to Thailand in 2021 (down from $653.49M in 2020), “electrical, electronic equipment” accounted for the lion’s share at $156.46 million (versus $126.31M in 2020), followed by “machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers” ($74.04M; vs $82.09M), “aluminium” ($27.69M; vs $22.57M), and “articles of iron or steel” ($19.27M; vs $10.72M).
The next eight items were: “articles of apparel, knit or crocheted” ($16.08M; vs $17.32M in 2020), “vehicles other than railway, tramway” ($11.50M; vs $8.06M), “furniture, lighting signs, prefabricated buildings” ($10.87M; vs $9.45M), “vegetable, fruit, nut food preparations” ($7.11M; vs $5.03M), “articles of apparel, not knit or crocheted” ($6.36M; vs $8.74M), “edible vegetables and certain roots and tubers” ($6.08M; vs $3.79M), “footwear, gaiters and the like” ($5.42M; vs $4.46M), and “edible fruits, nuts, peel of citrus fruit, melons” ($2.65M; vs $1.23M).
For reference, the 12 categories respectively correspond to chapters 85, 84, 76, 73, 61, 87, 94, 20, 62, 07, 64 and 08 of the Harmonised System (HS) of Tariff Nomenclature.
Similarly, out of Cambodia’s $3.46 billion worth of goods imports from Thailand in 2021 (up from $2.87B in 2020), “mineral fuels, oils, distillation products” accounted for the most at $845.16 million (versus $688.06M in 2020), followed by “vehicles other than railway, tramway” ($651.87M; vs $487.75M), “machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers” ($258.35M; vs $189.51M), and “electrical, electronic equipment” ($209.69M; vs $192.42M).
The next eight items were: “beverages, spirits and vinegar” ($193.46M; vs $235.40M in 2020), “pearls, precious stones, metals, coins” ($173.16M; vs $4.07M), “plastics” ($101.46M; vs $105.87M), “fertilisers” ($90.04M; vs $49.79M), “knitted or crocheted fabric” ($71.87M; vs $72.69M), “aluminium” ($58.96M; vs $35.87M), “salt, sulphur, earth, stone, plaster, lime and cement” ($58.41M; vs $74.06M), and “essential oils, perfumes, cosmetics, toiletries” ($55.19M; vs $42.42M).
These 12 categories respectively correspond to chapters 27, 87, 84, 85, 22, 71, 39, 31, 60, 76, 25 and 33 of the HS.
Of note, statistical discrepancies and asymmetries in trade figures are common between different sources. Trading Economics sources its figures from the UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UN COMTRADE).