Cambodian exports to the United States rose sharply in the first half of the year, surpassing $2 billion by the end of June, the latest data from the US government show.
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Cambodia’s shipments to the world’s largest market grew by 30 percent from January to June, the data show. $2.24 billion worth of Cambodian goods were purchased by the US.
Total trade between the two countries also expanded by 30 percent, reaching $2.5 billion. Cambodian imports of US products were valued at $264 million.
In July 2016, Cambodia was granted duty-free benefits for exports of travel goods like luggage, backpacks, handbags, and wallets to the US under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme.
In 2016, Cambodian goods exported under the GSP scheme amounted to $50 million. By 2018, the figure had increased to $400 million, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Speaking at a parliamentary workshop last month, Vongsey Visoth, secretary of state at Ministry of Economy and Finance, said export growth will remain strong throughout the year.
“In the first six months of the year, there was no slowdown. Export growth was strong,” Mr Visoth said.
“The garment sector is performing well because imports of raw materials have increased. If imports increase during the first half of the year, during the second half exports will likely increase as well.”
The diplomatic ties between Cambodia and the United States have been under strain after the main opposition party was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November 2017, with the US government imposing visa restrictions on some Cambodian government officials.
Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general for the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), said that, despite a common belief that bilateral relations are deteriorating, both countries enjoy a healthy trade relation.
“Some perceive the diplomatic and political ties as bad. But for us, the private sector, the relation is good.
“It’s just pure rhetoric. One or two senators voicing concerns about the Cambodian government does not represent the whole US government,” he said, adding that Cambodia has now become an alternative supplier for many US firms that were importing from China.
In January, US senators Ted Cruz and Chris Coons introduced the Cambodian Trade Act of 2019, which would require the US government to review the preferential trade treatment Cambodia receives under the GSP system, according to a press release from Sen. Cruz.
“Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has exploited preferential treatment afforded to it by the United States and Europe. He has failed to meet basic labour rights standards, undermined the integrity of elections in Cambodia. The Cambodian Trade Act aims to hold him and his government accountable for this behavior,” Sen. Cruz said.
According to Mr Monika, Cambodian exports to the US are not only growing but also diversifying.
Last year, trade between Cambodia and the US reached $4.26 billion, up 23 percent year-on-year. Cambodian exports to the US were valued at $3.8 billion.