Overall trade with North America climbed in 2008, but slowed in the final months of the year as the global crisis took hold, the Commerce Ministry says
A customer shops in a clothing store in Rosemont, Illinois. The United States is Cambodia’s biggest importer, primarily of garments, figures show.
Selling to the West
The Kingdom's top five export destinations based on 2008 figures:
- $2.04b - United States
- $212m - Canada
- $158.3m - United Kingdom
- $152.8m - Germany
- $150.1m - the Netherlands
Source: Ministry of Commerce
CAMBODIA'S overall trade with the United States and Canada increased in 2008 on strong garment exports, while trade with the United Kingdom declined, according to the Commerce Ministry's annual report obtained late Tuesday.
The figures reflected higher trade for the entire year, but monthly tallies suggests exports decreased in the last quarter of 2008 - a decline that has continued into this year, government officials said, as the global financial crisis deepens.
The US was Cambodia's No 1 export market, with US$2.04 billion, followed by Canada at $212 million and the UK at $158 million.
Total trade was up 4 percent and 39.6 percent for the US and Canada respectively, with UK trade down 4.3 percent.
On the flip side, Vietnam was the No 1 exporter to Cambodia at $988 million, adding up to a trade deficit of about $904 million.
China was No 2 at $784 million, with the Kingdom recording a trade deficit of about $775 million, the figures showed.
Cambodia's total exports were $3.35 billion, with imports of $4.42 billion. Total trade was up 11.8 percent.
Garments the key export
Thon Virak, deputy director general of the Directorate General of International Trade at the Ministry of Commerce, said Wednesday that garments made up the bulk of exports to the top-three countries.
"We exported mostly garments and shoes, and some handicrafts to those countries," said Thon Virak.
"Even though those countries are faced with the crisis, exports to US and Canada increased [in 2008] because the quality and price of our products is strong.
"They are buying more low-cost Cambodian garments instead of more expensive ones from other countries," he said.
Despite the sharp decline in garment sales in January this year, Thon Virak said he was still optimistic that exports could recover later this year as the sector homes in on the budget overseas market.
But garment manufacturers and government officials say that garment exports are down as much as 50 percent so far this year, compared with the same period in 2008.