Bilateral trade between Cambodia and the UK in the first seven months of 2022 rose by 45.5 per cent year-on-year, with further increases seen as London refines its new Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS) to replace the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) early in 2023, which is expected to improve access to the UK market for Cambodian merchandise.

General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE) statistics show that from January to July, Cambodia-UK trade reached $581.374 million, compared to $399.583 million in the same period last year.

Cambodian exports to the UK soared by 43.08 per cent to $527.733 million, and imports mushroomed by 74.48 per cent to $53.642 million. Cambodia’s trade surplus with the UK expanded by 40.22 per cent to $474.091 million.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post on August 21 that prior to the worst ravages of Covid-19, trade growth between the two kingdoms had been consistently positive, even as the UK adopted a new GSP after its withdrawal from the EU on January 31, 2020, commonly known as Brexit, which offered duty-free access for a range of Cambodian items.

“The UK is a major European buyer and a gainful market for Cambodian goods,” he said, voicing optimism that through the preferential trade arrangements offered by the four-nation union, “Cambodia’s exports to the UK will be able to gain huge swings of momentum down the road”.

Major Cambodian exports to the UK include garments, footwear, handbags, bicycles, and agricultural products, while key imports comprise vehicles, machinery, electrical and electronic components, and construction materials.

Heng noted that London is currently adjusting the DCTS to provide more favourable conditions for Cambodia to export to the UK, and predicted that the trading scheme would bring in considerable additional investment from European-based companies and enable Cambodian exports to net more money.

He said that the DCTS would be able to offset some of the losses from the EU’s partial withdrawal of its ‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) scheme, which affects 20 per cent of Cambodia’s exports to the bloc.

Ky Sereyvath, economics researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC), said that improvements in production chains, along with rebounding production and export volumes, have been in part propped up by the government’s relatively early push started in November towards the full resumption of socio-economic activity.

He underscored that the UK, as a developed economy, offers a plethora of opportunities for Cambodia, and serves as a gateway for export to other European countries.

“If Cambodia can attract more direct British investors, that’d expand the presence of Cambodian goods there, while also promoting the reputation of Cambodian products and increasing export earnings,” he said.

For reference, the Covid-19 crisis in large part plunged Cambodia-UK trade in 2021 to $788.652 million, down 10.60 per cent from 2020, with Cambodian exports falling 11.89 per cent to $731.842 million, whereas imports rose 10.2 per cent to $56.809 million, according to the GDCE. Cambodia’s trade surplus with the UK narrowed 13.36 per cent to $675.033 million.