Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Indonesia has experienced steady growth, even as broader political and economic crises have dampened international trade in many other regions.

In the first nine months of 2023, trade between the two nations amounted to over $808.07 million, marking an 18.6% increase compared to $681.25 million in the same period last year, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

Breaking down the numbers, Cambodia exported goods worth $37.12 million to Indonesia, a jump of 41.8%, while imports from Indonesia stood at $770.45 million, up by 17.7%. This resulted in a trade deficit for Cambodia of $733.82 million.

Trade between the two countries constituted 2.3% of Cambodia’s total international trade volume in the first nine months of 2023, which totalled $35.16 billion.

As of September, Indonesia stands as Cambodia’s sixth-largest trading partner, climbing from the 13th position a year earlier, following China, the US, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan.

Trade in September alone was valued at $66 million, a 20.98% surge from the $54.55 million recorded in September the year prior. Of this, Cambodia’s exports reached $7.57 million, a 45.94% increase, while Indonesia’s imports totalled $58.43 million, rising by 18.35%.

Lim Heng, vice-president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC), told The Post on September 22 that as an ASEAN member with strong political and economic ties, and due to its participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Cambodia has witnessed a growth in trade volume with Indonesia.

He noted, however, that Indonesia’s exports to Cambodia remain dominant due to its larger population and industrial capacity.

“While the trade growth is promising, Cambodia must focus on enhancing its export capabilities across the board. Agricultural crops can play a vital role in bolstering Cambodian exports,” he stated.

He said that with the efforts of the government and the private sector, he anticipates an increase in Cambodia’s exports to Indonesia – ASEAN’s largest economy – and other global markets, particularly with the strengthening of global economic growth.

Penn Sovicheat, a secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce, said the ministries of both countries have revised the MoU on milled rice trade.

“The Indonesian side has agreed to buy 250,000 tonnes of milled rice from Cambodia, including 100,000 tonnes of white rice [arranged] through Indonesia’s state logistics agency Bulog and [our state-owned] Green Trade Company, under the ministry,” he said.

“The remaining quantities, in the form of luxury milled rice transactions, will be between Indonesia’s ID Food and members of the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF),” he said, referring to the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. “Pricing and further terms are still under discussion.”

In addition to this, Indonesia will be assisting Cambodia’s food security measures by offering both fertiliser and training programmes for farmers.

During the 2023 Plenary Session of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) in Marrakesh, Morocco, from October 9-15, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Serey and Perry Warjiyo, governor of Bank Indonesia, the country’s central bank, engaged in discussions regarding a memorandum of understanding (MoU).

The MoU is focused on fortifying bilateral cooperation, primarily surrounding cross-border electronic payment systems, which are expected to boost tourism, trade and investment for both countries.

For reference, the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE) reported that in 2022, trade between Cambodia and Indonesia reached $948.53 million, a 48.3% rise from $639.72 million the previous year. In 2022, Indonesian exports to Cambodia stood at $911.69 million, a 50% increase, while Cambodian exports to Indonesia were valued at $36.839 million, up by 15.9%.