The US absorbed more than 44 per cent of Cambodia’s over-$20-billion total non-gold exports in 2022, remaining the largest market destination, ahead of the EU, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

The ministry’s 2022 Socio-Economic Trends report indicates that non-gold exports totalled $20.3441 billion last year, up 16.7 per cent from the 2021 figure – given as $17.440 billion in the previous edition of the report – buoyed by increases in products such as textile-related items, bicycles and milled rice.

The US accounted for 44.1 per cent of that, followed by the EU (19.9%), ASEAN (6.7%), China (6.1%), Japan (5.8%), and the UK (4.4%), while 13.2 per cent was attributed to other markets, the report said without providing value figures.

However, expressing figures by their possible ranges of values given these percentages – so as to account for rounding errors – the exports can be broken down by market thusly: the US ($8.961-8.982 billion), EU ($4.038-4.059 billion), ASEAN ($1.352-1.374 billion), China ($1.230-1.252 billion), Japan ($1.169-1.191 billion), the UK ($884.966-905.315 million) and other ($2.675-2.696 billion).

Non-gold Cambodian exports to the US were up 19.63-20.20 per cent from $7.472-7.491 billion in 2021.

For comparison, Customs (GDCE) put Cambodian merchandise exports to the US at $8.969 billion, up 19.74 per cent over $7.490 billion in 2021.

“With the current momentum of the recent recovery of economic activities, the perspectives on the Cambodian economy [are] showing positive signs, especially [in production,] which [reflect] the continuous growth in industrial production, garments, and non-garment exports,” the report said.

“In addition, the implementation [of the] ‘Strategic Framework and Programs for Economic Recovery in the Context of Living with Covid-19 in a New Normal 2021-2023’ is expected to accelerate key growth drivers including garment [and] non-garment [manufacturing], tourism and agriculture,” it added.

Speaking to The Post on April 9, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng commented that the vast amounts of Cambodian merchandise sold to the US each year are driven by: a robust production base that makes goods meeting desired quality standards; duty-free access under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP); and the Sino-US trade row and the associated tariffs.

Although general Cambodian merchandise exports to the US appear to have gotten off to a rocky start this year – falling 20.22 per cent on-year to $1.130 billion in the January-February period, as per the GDCE – Heng is fairly confident that value and market-share figures will be higher by end-2023 than a year prior, given the size and potential of the American market.

Major Cambodian exports to the US include: textile-related items such as garments, travel bags, footwear; bicycles; electric and electronic components; and agricultural products, according to him.

The US is not the only priority international market for Cambodian goods. “Europe is a large market that orders tonnes of goods from Cambodia,” he said, noting that the Kingdom benefits from the 27-nation EU’s ‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) preferential trade scheme.

In a recent interview, Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath put the popularity of Cambodian products in the US market down to their alignment with desired quality standards and competitive pricing, affirming that “the majority” of the Kingdom’s exports to the world’s number-one economy are covered by the GSP.

Both Heng and Sereyvath believe that the US will remain the Kingdom’s largest export destination for a long time to come.

As massive as Cambodian goods exports to the US continue to be, imports from that country remain rather limited. The GDCE puts the 2022 figure at $312.484 million – down 7.09 per cent on 2021 – accounting for 1.04 per cent of the Kingdom’s total imports for the year, at $29.942 billion.