The Kingdom exported $17.21537 billion worth of goods last year, up by 16.72 per cent from $14.74874 billion in 2019, even as the Covid-19 pandemic upended the world economy and slowed global trade to a crawl.
The total value of Cambodian international trade rose by just 2.54 per cent over 2019 to $35.80585 billion, but imports slipped 7.84 per cent to $18.59048 billion in 2020 from $20.17181 billion in the year prior, the Ministry of Commerce said in its 2020 annual performance report.
The Kingdom’s trade deficit narrowed 74.64 per cent to $1.37511 billion in 2020, from $5.42307 billion in the previous year.
The US topped the list of importers of Cambodian goods last year, at $5.25888 billion (up 19.46 per cent year-on-year), followed by the EU ($3.20387 billion, down 17.73 per cent), China ($1.08626 billion, up 8.11 per cent), Japan ($1.05555 billion, down 7.13 per cent), the UK ($826.16 million, down 15.48 per cent), Canada ($745.04 million, down 10.94 per cent), Thailand ($650.67 million, up 29.59 per cent) and Vietnam ($385.79 million, up 14.88 per cent).
Further down the list were South Korea ($185.02 million, down 12.61 per cent), Australia ($133.92 million, up 0.26 per cent), India ($61.36 million, down 5.12 per cent) and the Eurasian Economic Union ($52.19 million, up 0.73 per cent), according to the report.
Broken down by sector, garments ranked first in exports, reaching $7.42028 billion, down 10.24 per cent on a yearly basis, followed by footwear ($1.11673 billion, down 11.69 per cent), travel goods ($964.7 million, down 10.58 per cent), machinery and electric equipment ($755.34 million, up 31.49 per cent), bicycles ($527.08 million, up 27.78 per cent) and milled rice ($468.58 million, up 11.53 per cent).
At the opening of the ministry’s annual review meeting on April 1, minister Pan Sorasak said Cambodia shared in the regional and global trade woes linked to the pandemic due to the Kingdom’s level of economic integration.
Turning the threat of Covid-19 into opportunities for reforms towards greater economic and trade integration and national economic growth, Sorasak said the government has introduced sweeping measures to boost production and diversify the market.
“Goods exports maintained a similar growth rate to 2019, at 16.7 per cent, as Cambodia did not impose restrictions or ban on exports,” he said.
Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post on April 4 that although the Kingdom’s trade balance remains negative, the surge in exports reflects the gradual improvement in domestic production and cultivation.
“I remain optimistic that Cambodia’s export growth will show more positive signs in the future, as approvals of new investment projects at the Council for the Development of Cambodia maintain a steady pace,” he said.
According to Sorasak, the ministry remains committed to its mission to boost trade. Last year it rolled out in-depth reforms, slashed associated costs, and toiled towards a favourable and convenient environment for investing and doing business in Cambodia that would provide the Kingdom’s exports a competitive advantage, he said.
“We can maintain export growth through the use of existing preferential markets and additional market diversification strategies, such as negotiations on bilateral and multilateral free trade zones with trading partners to further widen the market for goods and services, and investment,” he added.
The recently-signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would boost the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) an additional two per cent, increase exports by an extra 7.3 per cent and raise investment by an added 23.4 per cent, Sorasak said, citing findings revealed by the Jakarta-based Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA).