Figures Show Healthy Trade Surplus With US

Cambodia exported $797.5 million worth of goods to the US during the first seven months of 2004, while the country imported only $32.3 million from the US during that same period, according to figures from the US Sta­tistics Department.

The statistics, which have been confirmed by the Ministry of Commerce, show that trade be­tween the two countries reached $829.8 million from January to July.

In all of 2003, Cambodia exported $1.123 billion in goods to the US, and imported $16.8 million.

The US absorbed more than 70 percent of Cambodia’s exported goods last year. Of those exports, the overwhelming majority came from the garment sector.

Buoyed by a bilateral trade agreement with the US, the garment industry has boomed in the past five years.

But a quota system which provided Cambodia exclusive access to part of the US market is scheduled to end this year, raising concerns that a sizable portion of the garment sector will abandon the country.

Thon Virak, deputy director of the Commerce Ministry’s export department, said Monday that despite the elimination of the quota system, he is confident the garment sector would stay until 2008.

“The question that we need to raise is how to make our products competitive with those of other countries when the quota ends,” Thon Virak said.

In order to remain attractive to garment factories, he said, the Ministry of Commerce was developing industrial zones along the Cambodia-Thailand border.

In line with a bilateral trade agreement, goods produced in the new industrial zone give a guaranteed market in Thailand for Cambodia’s exports.

The Thai market also offers a convenient alternative to shipping goods halfway around the world.

“We are dealing with Thai­land,” Thon Virak said. “I believe that if factories close in Phnom Penh, they will go to the industrial zone.”

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