Cambodian Exports Dwindle as Imports Increases from Thailand and Vietnam

Cambodia’s bilateral trade with Vietnam and Thailand increased in the first half of this year even as the total value of Cambodia exports to those countries declined sharply, according to figures released yesterday by the Commerce Ministry.

Over the last six months, the value of Cambodian exports to Thailand declined by just over 49 percent compared to the final six months of 2009. A 9 percent surge in imports during the same period raised the total value of trade to roughly $232 million in goods.

The total value of Cambodian trade with Vietnam increased almost 23 percent in the first six months of this year to roughly $474 million as the value of imported goods rose about 30 percent, while exported goods fell by slightly more than 32 percent.

“Previously, there were more imports from Thailand but Vietnam exported more goods to Cambodia so far this year,” said Kong Putheara, director of trade statistics and information at the Commerce Ministry.

According to Mr Putheara, Cambodia has continued to export mainly unprocessed agricultural products, including rubber, cassava, and tobacco, to neighboring countries. Mr Putheara said Cambodia imported fertilizer, oil, gas and dredgers–ships used to collect sand–from Vietnam and furniture, construction materials and motorcycles from Thailand.

Neou Seiha, a senior researcher at the Economic Institute of Cambodia, said yesterday that the decline in Cambodian exports to Vietnam and Thailand was not symptomatic of Cambodian goods being routed to other countries but of a decline in exports overall.

“If we had a stronger agricultural industry we would not even be exporting our agricultural goods to be processed elsewhere,” said Mr Seiha.

According to Hing Vutha, an economist, the new trade figures fail to factor in the substantial portion of Cambodian exports that find their way into neighboring countries illegally.

“Informal trade is fairly constant and rarely declines,” said Mr Vutha. “Much of the rice, cassava and rubber and other low-value added products are not being recorded and the Vietnamese demand for rice has probably even increased with global demand.”


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