Singapore goods flood Cambodian shores

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Singapore totalled $4.37 billion in the first 10 months of 2021, a 51.27 per cent year-on-year surge from $2.89 billion, as reported by the Ministry of Commerce, despite Covid-related disruptions to manufacturing supply chains.

In January-October, Cambodian exports to Singapore amounted to more than $112 million, marking a 95.47 per cent year-on-year dip from $2.478 billion, and imports were to the tune of $4.256 billion, surging by 938.12 per cent year-on-year from over $410 million.

Ministry spokesman Pen Sovicheat told The Post that bilateral trade flows are generally volatile, and that imports from Singapore had risen sharply due to burgeoning demand for key commodities such as fuel, asphalt concrete (AC), industrial chemicals, dairy products, electronics, beer and other beverages.

“The underlying causes are not serious, as normal trading is associated with market prices. When we sell better we gain more, and when sales don’t do very well we gain less, we cannot have it all, everything has repercussions, every change results in burdens,” he said.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post that trade with Singapore had been largely driven by an uptick in Singaporean investors in the Kingdom, combined with a double taxation agreement between the two countries.

He explained that Cambodia’s trade deficit with Singapore was in part due to the difference in the composition of traded goods in either direction, noting that the bulk of the Kingdom’s exports were agricultural products with relatively low value per tonnage.

On the other hand, Singapore is a small country that has seen remarkable technological progress, especially in the electrical and electronics industry – characterised by expensive goods, a considerable chunk of which winds up on Cambodian shores, he said.

“The Singaporean market is not big, it’s predominantly a country for transit goods, so I reckon that there wouldn’t be that many exports to Singapore, the population is small and most of our products are agricultural,” Heng said.

He added that many Singaporean companies have entered the Cambodian market, mostly in the construction, textile, garment, agricultural and hotel sectors.

In late May, Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak requested Singaporean ambassador to Cambodia Teo Lay Cheng to pave the way for the city-state’s companies to import more Cambodian agricultural products and further boost trade between the two ASEAN countries.

Sovicheat listed Cambodia’s main imports from Singapore during January-October as raw and processed meats, foodstuffs, beverages, cosmetics, electrical items, construction materials and fuel; and exports as agricultural products, beer, raw pharmaceutical ingredients, clothing and miscellaneous components.