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Trade slides with neighbours

Trade slides with neighbours

091023_10
A woman fuels up on imported petrol from Vietnam on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Official figures show Cambodia’s bilateral trade with Thailand and Vietnam continues to fall on a year-on-year basis, but the pace of decline is slowing.

TRADE figures released Thursday by the embassies of Vietnam and Thailand showed that Cambodia’s bilateral trade with its two neighbours continued to suffer in August, although with Thailand the pace of the downturn eased slightly.

In the first eight months of the year, trade with Thailand fell 30.66 percent, from US$1.518 billion in the same period last year to $1.052 billion, a slight improvement after bilateral trade dropped just over 31 percent in the first seven months. The Thai embassy did not disclose monthly figures.

Trade with Vietnam was down more than 29 percent year on year in the first eight months, according to embassy figures, meaning August saw a steep decline in bilateral trade after the first seven months registered a decline of just 21.9 percent.

“It was really very severe because it is a time of crisis,” said Le Bien Cuong, commercial counsellor at the embassy, adding that he expected an overall drop of just 20 percent in trade for this year compared to 2008. “We are seeing that global trade is getting better, so our two-way trade will
also be good from now until next year.”

Figures showed trade with Vietnam fell from $1.197 billion in the first eight months of 2008 to $848 million during the same period this year.

Thai exports to Cambodia fell 31.4 percent over the first seven months compared with the same period last year after dropping 30.29 percent over the first eight months.

Thailand exported goods worth $1.013 billion in the first eight months, while Cambodia in return shipped just $39 million, mostly garments, unprocessed agricultural products, fish and recyclable metal.

Jiranan Wongmongkol, the director of the Thai embassy’s Foreign Trade Promotion Office, last month blamed the decline on the economic crisis rather than disagreements between Bangkok and Phnom Penh. She was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Cambodia’s exports to Vietnam dropped 21.5 percent over the first seven months compared with the same period last year. They fell nearly 27 percent when the first eight months are taken into account. The Kingdom exported mostly unprocessed agricultural products, including rubber, tobacco, cashew nuts, smoked fish and rice.

Vietnam’s exports to the Kingdom were down 22 percent in the first seven months. A sharp fall in August propelled that to a 29.5 percent decline over the first eight months.

Chan Nora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, blamed bad weather for exacerbating the effects of the global downturn by reducing crop yields. This had especially affected exports, given Cambodia’s reliance on agriculture, he said.

Cambodian Economic Association President Chan Sophal blamed the decline on the cyclical nature of global trade, which had declined this year due to lower demand, he said. “We see that recently the global economy, as well as that in the region, is recovering, so I hope that it will improve in 2010,” he said.

Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon said Tuesday that he expected Cambodia’s economy to grow 2.1 percent this year, with agriculture growing 5 percent.

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