Prime Minister Hun Sen presided over a ceremony at his Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to unveil a new report that assesses the government’s foreign trade policies over the past seven years and lays out a policy roadmap for the next five.
The report, the third since the government began developing longterm trade plans in 2001, details efforts to increase exports since the release of the second roadmap in 2007 and offers broad policy suggestions in the leadup to Asean integration in 2015.
Mr. Hun Sen said at the unveiling that the country’s economic performance over the period of the last trade plan showed that rising exports are key to achieving the economic growth needed to make Cambodia an uppermiddleincome country by 2030.
“From 2011 to 2013, exports rose nearly 28 percent,” he said. “The export of goods and services increased from $4.5 billion in 2007 to $9.4 billion in 2013. Further, if we add unofficial exports to this figure, our exports per year [now] total $10 billion.”
With such rising export figures, he added, percapita gross domestic product had risen to $1,036 last year from $973 in 2012.
The prime minister said the report shows that government efforts to diversify away from a reliance on garment exports was starting to take hold. Exports “other than garments and tourism” had grown from 18 to 29 percent since 2007, it shows, citing bicycles, electronic components and milled rice as growth areas.
“In 2013, Cambodia exported bicycles totaling more than $300 million, whereas four or five years ago, no one even paid attention to the export of bicycles,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“Elsewhere, Cambodia exported nearly 400,000 tons of milled rice in 2013, which brought in $250 million in income.”
Cambodia had next to no capacity to export milled rice before a shift in government policy in 2009 that had resulted from suggestions made in the last trade policy roadmap, he said.
Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol said that he was proud to see the emergence of exports of highvalue goods such as bicycles, which he said are being sold in Europe for $500 to $1,000.
This year’s report says that Cambodia still has a way to go to further diversify exports, with garments representing 48 percent of the total value of exports in 2011—the latest year for which a breakdown is provided—when tourism is taken to be an export. In his speech, Mr. Hun Sen described tourism, which carried 23 percent in 2011, as an “onthespot export.”
The report cites poor physical infrastructure, high informal fees required to clear freight and growing labor unrest as among the problems that will have to be dealt with over the next five years to increase export volume and the quality of exports.
“For the Phnom PenhSihanoukville route, the transit time is 23 days including the time for loading and unloading” of freight, the report says in one section. Transit from central Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City ports can take four to five days, it says.
The report recommends the government work to ameliorate those threats to export growth, and then focus on promoting the manufacture—rather than import—of the inputs for exported goods.