Bilateral trade between Cambodia and South Korea in the first five months of 2021 was worth $377.05 million, up by 6.17 per cent year-on-year from $355.11 million, according to data from the Korea International Trade Association (Kita).

The Kingdom exported $139.46 million, inching down by 0.4 per cent from $140.03 million, and imported $237.59 million, surging by 10.5 per cent from $215.09 million.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post on July 13 that the increase in trade value over January-May was a testament to the strength of trade relations between the two countries.

But at the same time, he said, Cambodia must also strive to better promote its exports to South Korea.

He said the decline in the value of Cambodian exports may have been due to factors such as dwindling demand among Korean consumers, whose needs may not be fully met by the Kingdom’s goods.

“The data suggests that Cambodia needs to study the needs of the Korean market more, and also diversify production,” Vanak said, stressing that compliance with Korean standards for cultivation, processing, packaging and hygiene is paramount to exploiting the high untapped export potential of Cambodian products on the East Asian market.

On February 3, the two countries concluded talks for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), which Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak and his Korean counterpart Yoo Myung-hee plan to sign later this year, setting zero tariffs for a broad range of goods.

Vanak said that under the FTA, Cambodia would be able to attract more Korean investors, banking on its favourable geographical location and adequate access to skilled labour at reasonable costs.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng said the trade deal would drive up exports and imports simultaneously, delivering a sizeable competitive advantage for Cambodian merchandise on the Korean market.

“Preparations are necessary from now on, to increase export capacity to the Korean market when the FTA enters into force,” he said.

Cambodia’s main exports to South Korea include garments, footwear, travel products, beverages, components for electronic equipment, rubber, pharmaceuticals and agricultural products, and imports include vehicles, electronics, kitchen appliances, beverages, pharmaceuticals and plastics.

Cambodia-South Korea trade amounted to $884.88 million in 2020, down 17.77 per cent from $1.032 billion in 2019, according to Kita.

Cambodia exported more than $317 million of goods to the South Korean market last year, which was down by 5.4 per cent, and imported over $567 million, plunging by 18.6 per cent from $696 million in 2019.