Growth momentum in foreign inbound investment and orders have driven up the value of imports and exports handled at the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SSEZ) in the first three quarters of this year, reported at $1.904 billion, up 21.27 per cent from the $1.57 billion booked in the same time last year.

Preah Sihanouk provincial deputy governor Long Dimanche told The Post on October 17 that SSEZ production, imports and exports are on a steady upward trajectory, underpinned by a generally peaceful environment, strong public safety landscape, effective Covid-19 management, favourable and attractive updates to the legal investment framework, free trade agreements (FTA), preferential tariffs from many large markets, among other factors.

On the broader side, Cambodia has also economically benefitted from international trade disputes and political conflicts, as well as diminished production capacity in other countries due to Covid, he said, noting that SSEZ tenants are predominantly Chinese, Thai and South Korean businesses.

Dimanche claimed that these favourable conditions have driven up the value of imports and exports handled at the SSEZ and other special economic zones (SEZ), as well as the number of investment projects located outside of these zones.

For reference, in the January-August period, the value of imports and exports passing through the 11.13sq km SSEZ – the largest SEZ by size and occupancy – was reported at $1.749 billion, a 27.39 per cent uptick from $1.373 billion in the year-ago period. The zone’s operator did not provide separate figures for imports and exports.

However, this means that the SSEZ’s September import-export figure accounted for just over eight percent of the three-quarter total, suggesting a relatively slow month.

Logistics and Supply Chain Business Association in Cambodia (Loscba) president Chea Chandara commented that its convenient location near the Kingdom’s sole international and commercial deep seaport is largely responsible for the constant increases in production, transportation and import-export values seen at the SSEZ, even during the height of Covid.

“The growth in import-export volume is due to an increase in orders from Europe, the US and some parts of Asia,” he said, noting that some of the SSEZ’s newer tenants manufacture items for export such as electrical equipment, solar products, garments, furniture and travel goods.

Stressing that the SSEZ is preponderantly export-oriented, its future import-export figures will largely depend on global economic activity, Chandara pointed out.

In 2021, the value of imports and exports passing through the SSEZ were to the tune of $2.234 billion, a 42.75 per cent surge from $1.565 billion a year earlier, which witnessed a 26.52 per cent jump over $1.237 billion in 2019, according to the operator.

General Department of Customs and Excise statistics show that, in the first nine months of 2022, Cambodia’s international trade totalled $41.023 billion, up by 18.01 per cent year-on-year from $34.761 billion.

Cambodia’s exports came in at $17.258 billion, up 22.06 per cent year-on-year, and imports $23.764 billion, up 15.24 per cent. The Kingdom’s trade deficit for the January-September period grew 0.36 per cent on a yearly basis to $6.506 billion.