Cambodian goods exports to mainland China totalled $439.543 million in the first four months of the year, marking a 3.73 per cent year-on-year increase and an even more inspiring jump of 16.80 per cent half-on-half (compared to July-October 2022), according to provisional Customs (GDCE) data compiled in “International Merchandise Trade Statistics” bulletins.

The volume of merchandise traded between the two markets in January-April 2023 was to the tune of $3.894 billion, down 0.93 per cent year-on-year but up 7.03 per cent half-on-half. At the same time, the Kingdom imported $3.454 billion worth of goods from mainland China, down 1.50 per cent year-on-year but up 5.90 per cent half-on-half.

Cambodia’s trade deficit – the amount by which a country’s imports exceed its exports – with mainland China for the four-month period stood at $3.015 billion, narrowing by 2.22 per cent year-on-year but expanding by 4.48 per cent half-on-half.

Mainland China was Cambodia’s biggest trading partner, number-three export destination, and top import source for the period, representing 25.68 per cent, 6.08 per cent and 43.58 per cent of the Kingdom’s international trade ($15.161 billion), exports ($7.234B) and imports ($7.927B), respectively, GDCE figures indicate.

Speaking to The Post on May 18, Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, asserted that solid ties between the two countries’ public and private sectors prevented more significant drops in trade volumes, noting that practically all countries have recorded decreases in imports and exports for nearly a year.

He suggested that the uptick in Cambodian exports could be due to increased shipments of agricultural goods.

Vanak also pointed out that imports from mainland China account for the bulk of the two-way trade – 88.71 per cent in January-April and 89.38 per cent in full-year 2022, according to the GDCE.

“For a shot at creating a more prominent presence in the Chinese market and in other countries, Cambodia must work to ramp up its production capacity as well as diversify,” he said.

Last month alone, the Cambodia-mainland China merchandise trade volume came to $1.032 billion, down 2.43 per cent from April 2022 (year-on-year), up 24.56 per cent from October 2022 (half-on-half), up 6.05 per cent from January 2023 (quarter-on-quarter), and down 10.85 per cent from March 2023 (month-on-month), according to provisional GDCE statistics.

Cambodian exports reached $110.897 million, up 8.79 per cent year-on-year, up 20.01 per cent half-on-half, and up 36.73 per cent quarter-on-quarter, but down 15.1 per cent month-on-month.

Imports, meanwhile, closed the month at $920.698 million, down 3.63 per cent year-on-year, up 25.13 per cent half-on-half, up 3.26 per cent quarter-on-quarter, and down 10.31 per cent month-on-month.

The Kingdom’s trade deficit with mainland China in April came to $809.80 million, down 5.11 per cent year-on-year, up 25.9 per cent half-on-half, down 0.09 per cent quarter-on-quarter, and down 9.62 per cent month-on-month.

Mainland China was Cambodia’s biggest trading partner, number-four export destination, and top import source last month, representing 26.39 per cent, 6.02 per cent and 44.55 per cent of the Kingdom’s international trade ($3.909B), exports ($1.842B) and imports ($2.067B), respectively, GDCE numbers show.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng opined that China’s role as a major source of raw materials for manufacturing keeps the import-to-export ratio high.

On the other hand, demand remains strong for Chinese construction materials, office supplies, electrical and electronic equipment, and other daily necessities, he noted.

Regardless, Heng argued that the Kingdom’s trade deficit with mainland China is not inherently negative, “because most Chinese imports are inputs or raw materials to be processed into finished products for export”.

The Kingdom’s exports to the Chinese market are expected to remain in positive growth territory, in part thanks to Beijing’s recent addition of peppercorn to the list of Cambodian agricultural products authorised for entry into China, which also includes three fruits in fresh form: bananas, mangoes and longan, he added.

GDCE statistics show that mainland China again emerged as Cambodia’s largest merchandise trading partner in 2022, with a record full-year volume of $11.686 billion, up 4.39 per cent against 2021. This was equivalent to 22.291 per cent of the Kingdom’s $52.425 billion total in international merchandise trade for the year.

The Chinese mainland was Cambodia’s top import source last year, making up 34.89 per cent of the total with $10.446 billion, which marked a rise of 7.86 per cent over 2021. The region also accounted for 5.52 per cent of the Kingdom’s total exports, with $1.241 billion, which fell 17.85 per cent – putting it behind only the US ($8.969 billion) and Vietnam ($2.169 billion).

The Kingdom’s trade deficit with mainland China expanded by 12.61 per cent, from $8.174 billion in 2021 to $9.205 billion in 2022, GDCE figures indicate.