Bilateral Trade With China Jumps to $4.8 Billion

Trade between China and Cambodia swelled to $4.8 billion last year, up by about $200 million from the year before, while Beijing has now given the government $4.2 billion in grants and loans, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Khmer-language launch of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 2014 tome “The Governance of China,” Mr. Hun Sen said Chinese investment in Cambodia had grown at least 26 percent annually over the past decade.

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Jiang Jianguo, minister of China’s State Council Information Office, presents Prime Minister Hun Sen with a copy of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book “The Governance of China” at a ceremony in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, in a photograph posted to Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page.

“China is the biggest investor in Cambodia,” he said.

That trade was lopsided, with Cambodia importing $3.9 billion worth of Chinese goods—including fabrics, machinery and electronics—and exporting about $830 million in goods such as rice and rubber.

The figures also eclipse a 2015 Commerce Ministry estimate, which predicted $4.3 billion in bilateral trade last year, up from $3.75 billion in 2014.

The prime minister repeated his regular praise of Beijing’s development aid, which he previously hailed for the lack of finger-wagging over human rights that has sometimes accompanied aid from Western donors.

“Cambodia has received as much as [$4.2 billion] in official development aid from both grants and loans from the People’s Republic of China by February 2017, mostly for development on physical infrastructure, agriculture, health, education and social security,” the prime minister said, without providing a starting point for the figures.

Miguel Chanco, lead Asean analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said Cambodia’s trade gap with China was not surprising given the lack of local industry in Cambodia and soaring Chinese investment.

“Both factors mean that Cambodia remains highly dependent on imports from China, which is currently the economy’s main source of imports,” he wrote in an email. “This picture is not particularly unique to Cambodia.”

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