Cambodia's total imports decreased by nearly 23 per cent in the first half of this year over the same period in 2022, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia were the five largest exporters of goods to Cambodia, it noted.

China exported more than $5.44 million worth of goods to the Kingdom, an increase of 1.2 per cent year-on-year, while Vietnam’s exports of $1.872 billion represented a drop of more than 10 per cent.

Thailand’s exports decreased by nearly 20 per cent to $1.447 billion, while Indonesia’s $573 million in exports marked an increase of nearly 27 per cent. Malaysia’s exports to Cambodia dropped two per cent to more than $268 million.

Ministry of Commerce spokesman Penn Sovicheat said the decline in the Kingdom’s imports was due to a decrease in demand combined with the growth of Cambodia’s domestic supply.

Four of the five top importers were members of ASEAN, he added, which meant trade with the bloc’s member countries was being encouraged, especially during a period of global economic downturn.

“Among ASEAN countries, Vietnam and Thailand have the most trade with us, and their volumes both in terms of imports and exports are similar.

“This is because of ease of transportation, with the two countries sharing borders with Cambodia, while the consumption needs of the people are also similar,” Sovicheat said.

Commerce minister Pan Sorasak has said the government is working to boost exports and imports with ASEAN countries.

He said that with the current global economic uncertainty, the Cambodian government recommended greater trade with ASEAN countries, as most member nations exported outside the regional bloc.

“We are now working hard to boost exports and imports with ASEAN members. We are doing this because it will make us more resilient in terms of food security.

“With the world experiencing many problems, particularly a lack of security in food and energy, we need to work harder to strengthen regional trade ties,” he said.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economic researcher Hong Vannak said the current global economic downturn had brought trade challenges for many countries around the world.

Demand in many nations, including the Kingdom, had declined, he added.

“In this context, many countries in the world, Cambodia included, are experiencing declining demand, especially in sectors that are non-essential.

“Reducing imports of some non-essential goods and boosting exports to international markets is a good thing for the Kingdom’s economy.

“While Cambodia has reduced imports from other countries, it has not affected its trade relations,” Vanak said.

In the first half of 2023, the volume of Cambodia’s international trade reached more than $23 billion, down 13 per cent from the same period in 2022. Of that, Cambodia exported more than $11 billion, while imports amounted to over $12 billion.

The main goods the Kingdom exports to international markets include clothing, footwear, textiles, electronic components and agricultural products, while machinery and electrical equipment, construction materials, fertilisers and pesticides are the biggest imports.