Economists and business stakeholders are optimistic that the value of exports from Cambodia to its five main markets will continue to rise. In the first 11 months of 2023, the country’s exports reached nearly $14 billion, constituting over two-thirds of its total export value of more than $20 billion.

Data from the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE) indicate that between January and November, exports to international markets totalled $20.49 billion, a 1.2% increase from the $20.24 billion recorded during the same period in 2022. 

Specifically, exports to the country’s five major markets – the US, Vietnam, China, Japan and Canada – amounted to $13.91 billion, marking a 4.45% increase for the period. This accounted for 67.8% of the total, up from 65.9% in 2022, year-on-year.

From January to November 2023, exports to the US were the largest, at $8.14 billion, or 39.7% of the total value and showing a slight dip of 0.9% for the period. 

Exports to Vietnam increased to $2.61 billion, a 12.7% share of the total, marking a 37.8% increase year-on-year. 

Exports to China reached $1.31 billion (6.4% of the total), an increase of 18.8% for the interval; Japan $1.86 billion (5.2%), a slight decrease of 0.3%; and Canada saw $773.71 million (3.8%), down by 24.6%, year-on-year.

Hong Vanak, an economics researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said on December 27 that the export numbers are promising, particularly given the current global economic uncertainty. 

He attributed the focus on the five countries to several factors, including improved diplomatic relations and the high quality of Cambodian goods which meet buyers’ needs, alongside the implementation of bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements (FTAs).

“I am optimistic that the flow of Cambodian goods to international markets, especially to those five countries, will increase from 2024 onwards as the production capacity and quality of Cambodian goods are steadily improving,” he said.

Vanak explained that the Kingdom’s trade relations with the US and Canada benefit from the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) while with China, there now exists the Cambodia-China FTA (CCFTA).

He noted that Vietnam and Japan are part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which also enhances trade.

Lim Heng, vice-president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, recently highlighted the role of increased domestic production capacity over the years in boosting the country’s exports worldwide. 

He noted that the growth in domestic production not only lessens its reliance on foreign imports but also enhances the reputation of Cambodian products globally. 

He added that through concerted efforts by both the government and the private sector, the country has successfully expanded and strengthened its market share.

Heng emphasised the significance of attracting foreign investors and encouraging them to procure Cambodian-made products. To this end, he said the chamber has established offices in several countries. 

“These representative offices have become an important part of promoting Cambodia’s exports and economic growth,” he said, noting that countries hosting the offices include Canada, Japan and Australia.

Chhin Ken, president of the Digital Technology Association of Cambodia (DTAC), attributed the robust sales to the five key countries to improved diplomatic relations and the enactment of FTAs. 

He expressed optimism that exports would rise further with an improvement in the global economic climate. 

“Because of Cambodia’s FTAs with all five countries, there has been an increase in exports from Cambodia. I believe exports to [those] countries will increase in the near future,” he said.

Chea Chandara, president of the Logistics and Supply Chain Business Association (LOSCBA), highlighted the positive impact of robust investment laws, human resource development and improved transport infrastructure on attracting more investors. 

He emphasised that the enhancement and expansion of export markets has been instrumental in this regard. As exports and imports surge, he noted, there will be a corresponding increase in the national economy and an improvement in the transport sector.

“I am confident that Cambodia’s exports to the target markets of the world, especially the five countries mentioned above, will improve from the end of 2023 onwards, as Cambodia is now showing improvement in all areas, including production capacity and transportation,” he said. 

Chandara also predicted that following the resolution of the current global crisis, there would be a significant uptick in the exports of key Cambodian products such as textiles, electronic components and agricultural goods.

According to the GDCE, the Kingdom currently sells a range of goods to the five nations, including textiles, footwear, bags, electronic components and agricultural products among others.

Exports to the aforementioned countries amounted to $14.67 billion in 2022, accounting for 65.2% of total exports and marking a 12.56% increase from $13.03 billion in 2021.