Trade between Cambodia and the 14 other countries in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) reached nearly $30 billion in 2023, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

A recent report from the ministry showed that the country’s exports to member countries amounted to $8.172 billion in 2023, an increase of more than 28%, while imports from partners were valued at $21.286 billion, representing a decrease of more than 13% year-on-year.

The RCEP, which came into effect on January 1, 2022, encompasses 15 major trade agreements among 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including the 10 ASEAN members and five trading partners: China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Ministry spokesperson Pen Sovicheat noted on February 5 the growth in the country’s exports to RCEP members, with decreases observed in only four countries, of which two are ASEAN member states. 

“Cambodia is part of the world’s supply chain, with increasing exports of garments, footwear, electronics, electricity and agriculture to RCEP countries,” he said.

Sovicheat explained that since the agreement’s implementation, the country’s exports to international markets, particularly RCEP members, have increased considerably. 

The RCEP, as the world’s largest trading bloc, boasts a GDP of more than $26 trillion, accounting for about 30% of the global GDP, 28% of world trade and over 32% of global investment.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, suggested that the decline in imports from RCEP members in 2023 was due to a combination of factors, such as repercussions of the Russia-Ukraine war, which led to an increase in market goods prices, and the Israel-Hamas conflict, which contributed to global inflation.

However, he emphasised that the rise in exports to the members, during a period marked by international economic and political instability, indicated the rapid growth in the country’s production capacity and adherence to quality standards. 

“The reasons for the increase in Cambodia’s production and exports may be attributed to several factors, such as improved political and geopolitical stability, the integration of the Cambodian economy into the regional and global economy, and the reform of the country’s investment law, leading to escalating exports,” Vanak added.