Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Thailand reached $5.97 billion in the first nine months of 2021, surging by 18 per cent year-on-year from $5.08 billion despite disruptions caused by the community spread of Covid-19 in the two ASEAN nations, according to a report from the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok.

In January-September, Cambodia’s exports to Thailand were worth $687 million, dipping by 28 per cent from $958 million in the year-ago period, and imports were to the tune of $5.28 billion, up by 14 per cent year-on-year from $4.61 billion, according to the report.

In September alone, bilateral trade volume hit $732 million, expanding by 48 per cent year-on-year from $495 million.

Cambodian ambassador to Thailand Ouk Sorphorn, told The Post that despite the blockades and restrictions on travel between the two countries, cross-border trade continued.

“The continued increase in trade volume between Cambodia and Thailand during this difficult period reflects the efforts of the two governments to facilitate cross-border trade between the two countries,” he said.

“We continued to exchange goods on a daily basis, despite travel restrictions.”

Addressing the drop in Cambodian exports over the period, Sorphorn said Covid-19 had slowed down the import of agricultural products from Cambodia.

He asserted that Thailand also raised sanitary and phytosanitary issues concerning Cambodian agricultural products.

On the other hand, the uptick in imports is not only “because Thailand has put in place 130 action plans to diversify the export sector in every way” and boost sales, but also due to a surge in “the daily consumption needs of Cambodians, especially for finished products” during the government blockades, he said.

Cambodia Business Council in Thailand (CBC) president Sothea Sambath told The Post on November 4 that the increase in bilateral trade during this period was a very positive sign for economic relations between the two ASEAN nations.

“We see this growth as a good sign as the two countries have struggled to bolster trade in the difficult circumstances” due to Covid, he said.

He noted that imported consumer goods lag behind demand, even as “we are still suffering from a trade deficit with Thailand”.

He pointed out that the CBC’s main mission is to serve as a communication link and improve market access for Cambodian products to Thailand, to reduce the trade deficit and attract investment from Thailand to Cambodia.

“The CBC has now signed an agreement with two major large companies in Thailand to help bring our Cambodian products to market,” Sambath said.

The council is also organising a Cambodia-Thailand agriculture business forum now that the two countries have announced economic reopening plans, he said.

“We have also been working on agri-business to further develop the Thai market. This month, we will organise a meeting … between Cambodian and Thai businessmen.

“The CBC believes that the ban on travel to Thailand will also have some effect on trade between the two countries. Cambodia and Thailand’s recent announcements of flights and economic reopening is good news for boosting trade, tourism and investment between our two countries,” he said.

Major Cambodian exports to Thailand from January-September included textiles, agricultural products, precious stones, raw materials and semi-finished products; while notable imports were energy, fishes, meats, vegetables, automobiles, organic fertilisers, cement and foodstuffs.

Cambodia exported $1.148 billion worth of merchandise to Thailand in 2020, down 49.49 per cent year-on-year, and imported $6.089 billion, down 14.80 per cent from 2019, according to embassy data.