Cambodia: Jan-Sep US trade soars 28% to $7.3B

Cambodian commodity exports to the US and bilateral trade between the two countries both surged nearly 30 per cent year-on-year in the first nine months of 2022, increases that are expected to continue as shipping costs ease, buoyed by an ongoing investment upswing in the Kingdom fuelling a manufacturing revolution.

In the January-September period, Cambodia-US commodity trade totalled $7.297 billion, expanding by 27.96 per cent from the $5.703 billion recorded in the same time last year, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE).

Of that, Cambodian exports amounted to $7.047 billion, up 29.40 per cent year-on-year, and imports $250.741 million, down 2.48 per cent. The Kingdom’s trade surplus with the US for the nine-month period expanded 30.98 per cent, from $5.189 billion to $6.796 billion.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng told The Post on October 18 that the Kingdom’s exports to the US remained on an uptrend, despite threats to global growth from Covid-19, geopolitical crises and adverse economic circumstances.

He said shipping costs have sharply moderated following a stratospheric climb during the height of Covid, which has helped Cambodia maintain its competitive edge.

“I am optimistic that bilateral trade with the US will continue to grow, especially Cambodia’s exports. The Council for the Development of Cambodia’s approval of more investment companies will also drive up Cambodia’s production capacity,” Heng said, referring to the government’s highest decision-making body for large-scale investments.

He said the bulk of Cambodian exports to the US comprise garments, travel goods, footwear, bicycles and electronic components, while imports consist mainly of vehicles, electronics, machinery, pharmaceuticals and high-tech products.

Heng also suggested that the US would ramp up purchases of solar products, alluding to a declaration of emergency issued by US President Joe Biden on June 6 to impose a 24-month moratorium on new duties on solar cell and module imports from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said rapid post-Covid recovery is helping the Kingdom sustain momentum in goods production and exports.

He emphasised that many countries now recognise Cambodian products for their superior quality and availability.

“Despite concerns about declining orders for Cambodian textiles from abroad, Cambodia now has many other products to export to the US market,” Vanak said, noting that the US is by far the biggest buyer of Cambodian goods.

For reference, the January-September GDCE figures indicate that Vietnam was the second biggest buyer of Cambodian goods, at $1.560 billion – or just 22.14 per cent of the corresponding figure for the US – followed by Japan ($897.695 million), mainland China ($895.463 million), Canada ($874.861 million) and Germany ($828.872 million).

Last year, commodity trade between the two countries logged $7.826 billion, up 40.38 per cent over 2020, GDCE statistics show.