The trade volume between Cambodia and Thailand reached $7.236 billion last year, tumbling 23.17 per cent from 2019, primarily due to the economic disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Thai Ministry of Commerce.
Statistics show that Cambodia exported $1.148 billion in 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.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post that the drop in exports was likely due to a shift in agricultural exports away from Thailand to Vietnam.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in exports of agricultural products such as paddy, cassava, corn and legumes to Vietnam,” he said.
Heng said imports mainly comprised food and beverages, construction materials and kitchen appliances.
Government drives to further open the Cambodian-Thai borders will give an impetus to bilateral trade once the Covid-19 situation has been brought under control, he asserted.
“[The volume of] goods in the Cambodian processing industry remain constrained and they cannot compete with those in Thailand and Vietnam.
“As a result, we need to encourage foreign investment in the processing industry to promote small and medium-sized enterprises in a manner consistent with phytosanitary and quality standards and allow us the ability to compete with them sooner or later,” he said.
Hong Vanak, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Economics Department, said the Covid-19 outbreak had put a squeeze on trade relations between the two countries.
On the other hand, he pointed out that Cambodia’s added capacity to produce consumer goods had replaced large swathes of imports from Thailand with domestic merchandise, leading to the dwindling trade figures posted in 2020.
“Another reason I’ve seen is that Cambodia’s building-up of strong relations with other countries such as China, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam has led to more goods being imported from them in favour of those from Thailand.
“Political tensions in Thailand could also result in detrimental repercussions on trade with Cambodia,” Vanak said.
Cambodian ambassador to Thailand Ouk Sorphorn told The Post in November that Cambodia will set up the Cambodian Business Council in Bangkok, in a move to shore up bilateral trade and woo more Thai investors to Cambodia.
Bilateral trade volume between Cambodia and Thailand was worth about $9 billion in 2019, gaining 7.14 per cent from $8.4 billion in 2018, according to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.
And according to Sorphorn, Thailand was among the nine biggest investors in Cambodia, pumping $967.89 million in foreign direct investment into the country between 1994 and the end of the third quarter of 2017.