Cambodia's international trade volume reached $15.611 billion in the first four months of 2023, down 14.10 per cent year-on-year from $17.650 billion, while the trade deficit for the period narrowed by nearly three-quarters on an annual basis, according to provisional figures from the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE).

Cambodian exports and imports for the January-April period clocked in at $7.234 billion and $7.927 billion, respectively, down 4.89 per cent and 21.07 per cent year-on-year from $7.606 billion and $10.043 billion.

The Kingdom’s trade deficit – the amount by which a country’s imports exceed its exports – for the four-month period came in at $692.796 million, shrinking by 71.57 per cent on a yearly basis from $2.437 billion.

Last month alone, international trade was to the tune of $3.909 billion, down 12.88 per cent compared to $4.487 billion in April 2022. Exports and imports reached $1.842 billion and $2.067 billion, down 2.51 per cent and down 20.43 per cent year-on-year. The monthly trade deficit stood at $224.68 million, narrowing by 68.26 per cent from a year ago.

The declines in Cambodia’s international trade seen in recent months come as a result of diminished overseas demand, and especially a drop in purchase orders from major target markets such as the US, Canada and Europe, opined Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia.

Regardless, these reductions are part of broader trends seen across virtually every country, especially since the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, he told The Post on May 14.

Improvements in global political and economic conditions should enable Cambodia’s trade momentum to pick up, especially in terms of exports, he surmised, arguing that the Kingdom has several agreements with trading partners and that it benefits from preferential tariff treatment granted by a plethora of nations.

He reflected on how much the monthly trade deficit has shrunk compared to historical figures, which he stated “confirms the growth and strength of Cambodia’s domestic production and exports”.

A potential trade surplus could mean more money for state coffers to invest in the construction of roads, electricity and other infrastructure to attract more direct investment and boost exports, Vanak mused.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng commented that the global economy currently faces a multitude of challenges – such as overall declining demand, shortages of raw materials and rising inflation – stemming from the Ukraine conflict and a host of geopolitical rows.

Populations and governments the world over have considerably reduced spending, he said, suggesting that this trend would persist if the international community is unable to agree on substantive resolutions to at least some of these hostilities.

“For Cambodia, international trade has shown few positive signs since mid-2022,” he said, contending that things could rapidly change with a suitable end to international crises, given the steady uptick in number of local and international companies operating in the Kingdom.

Provisional GDCE figures show that Cambodia’s international goods trade amounted to $52.425 billion last year, up 9.19 per cent on 2021. The Kingdom exported and imported $22.483 billion and $29.942 billion, respectively, up 16.44 per cent and 4.32 per cent on a yearly basis, narrowing the trade deficit by 20.60 per cent to $7.459 billion.