Bilateral trade between Cambodia and the UK in the first seven months of 2023 fell 14.6 per cent year-on-year to $496.3 million from $581.4 million, with nearly 90 per cent of the value consisting of exports from Cambodia, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

From January to July 2023, exports to the UK amounted to $441 million, down 16.4 per cent from the corresponding period last year while Cambodia imported $55.3 million worth of goods, up 3.1 per cent.

Trade surplus of $385.7 million was recorded in that time, the GDCE showed, noting that the UK is Cambodia’s 10th largest trading partner, led by China, the US, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Germany and Canada.

For July 2023, trade dropped 29.3 per cent year-on-year to $88.3 million. Exports to the UK were down 30.2 per cent at $80.01 million, while imports from the UK declined 13.4 per cent to $8.3 million.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng said the export decline was due to lower orders from the UK.

“Declining orders from the UK were a result of the ongoing global economic crisis, which forced individuals to tighten spending. Cambodia’s exports would be able to recover once the global economy grows, as people would spend and travel more,” he told The Post on Aug 30.

However, the production chain in Cambodia remains strong, if international orders increase, Cambodia’s international trade volume would meet all targets.

“I am optimistic that the capacity of Cambodia’s processing plants for export will improve in 2024,” he said, adding that although the UK left the EU, the country continues to offer the generalised system of preference (GSP) for tariff-free and quota-free entry into the market.

Cambodia exports garments, shoes, bags, bicycles, agricultural products to the UK, while Cambodia imports autos, machinery, electrical equipment and electronic components from the UK.

Hong Vanak, an economics researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, opined that slow economic growth mainly pulled down the bilateral trade volume in the last seven months.

This sign appeared at the beginning of the second half of 2022, after the outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine.

“The declining export figure is not surprising because most of the goods that Cambodia exports to the UK are textiles and bicycles. At this stage, exports of non-agricultural products are not showing good signs,” he said.

Owing to this, Vanak said it was time Cambodia diversified its exports to meet global market demand.

Last year, bilateral trade between Cambodia and the UK totalled nearly $977.4 million, an increase of 24 per cent from $788.7 million in 2021.

Of that, Cambodia’s exports rose 21.1 per cent to $886.4 million with imports from the UK up 60.2 per cent at $91.02 million, the GDCE stated.