The volume of imports and exports of the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone’s (SSEZ) tenants totalled $2.246 billion in the first 11 months of 2022, marking a 12.24 per cent rise year-on-year from $2.001 billion, statistics provided by the operator indicate.
Sihanoukville Special Economy Zone Co Ltd, the operator of the 11.13sq km special economic zone (SEZ) – the largest by size and occupancy – tends not to provide separate figures for imports and exports.
An SEZ is a specially-defined region within a jurisdiction’s borders that is subject to different – typically more liberal – legal, administrative and economic regulations than elsewhere in the same jurisdiction, and can include unique tax, logistical or one-stop service arrangements designed to attract business and investment.
Although data for individual months were not immediately available, by expressing figures by their possible ranges of values so as to account for rounding errors, it can be seen that November imports and exports were relatively few, amounting to $176-178 million, down 23.60-25.11 per cent year-on-year but up 6.02-8.54 per cent month-on-month.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng credits the gains in imports and exports being reported by SEZs nationwide to satisfactory levels of political stability and investor confidence, favourable investment laws and a wide range of overseas buyers.
“The import and export values coming from the SSEZ will keep increasing amid a greater number of enterprises doing business there,” he told The Post, adding that the zone’s tenants cover a variety of sectors including garments and travel goods, electrical appliances, furniture and wire rope.
In 2021, the value of imports and exports passing through the SSEZ was $2.234 billion, surging by 42.75 per cent from $1.565 billion a year earlier, which had witnessed a 26.52 per cent jump over $1.237 billion in 2019, according to the operator.
Heng remarked that Cambodia’s international trade is expected to be buoyed further by improvements in cooperation with a whole slew of countries and an increase in number of trade agreements under its belt.
General Department of Customs and Excise statistics show that, in the first 10 months of 2022, Cambodia’s international trade totalled $44.565 billion, up 14.91 per cent year-on-year and up 54.06 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.
Cambodia’s imports and exports came in at $25.818 billion and $18.748 billion, respectively, up 11.96 per cent and 19.25 per cent year-on-year, and up 54.93 per cent and 52.88 per cent from the corresponding time in 2019.
The Kingdom’s trade deficit for the 10-month period was $7.070 billion, shrinking 3.65 per cent year-on-year but expanding 60.63 per cent from January-October 2019.
Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, expects SSEZ imports and exports to continue to deliver a strong performance going forward, driven by a pick-up in overseas purchase orders across the country, as well as the zone’s strategic location near the Kingdom’s sole deep-water port.
The SSEZ is located in Pou Thoeung village, Bit Traing commune, Prey Nop district, Preah Sihanouk province just north of Sihanouk International Airport.
And in particular, Vanak continued, the SSEZ’s tenants will ship out even more merchandise abroad as the global economy recovers from the massive knock-on effects of the Covid-19 crisis.
Looking at the broader picture, Cambodia’s free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea that took effect this month, coupled with existing FTAs such as the one with China and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), will take the Kingdom’s exports “to another level”, he enthused.
In an interview with The Post last month, Preah Sihanouk provincial deputy governor Long Dimanche commented that more investors are turning to the coastal southwestern province, drawn in by the deep-water port, the favourable conditions created by the new Law on Investment, and an abundance of young workers.
He voiced optimism that economic activity in Sihanoukville and elsewhere in the Kingdom would pick up again as China’s Covid-19 restrictions ease and with enough clarity in the global economic landscape.
Dimanche shared that the SSEZ’s tenants are mostly Chinese, Thai and Korean businesses, and churn out garments, electrical appliances, furniture and travel goods.