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Despite lower exports, trade with Thailand up 35 percent

May Kunmakara / Khmer Times Share:
People transporting goods across the Cambodia-Thailand border. KT/Mai Vireak

Trade between Cambodia and neighbouring Thailand expanded by more than 35 percent last year driven by strong economic growth in both nations.

According to data from the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh, bilateral trade reached $8.4 billion in 2018, a jump of 35.5 percent from 2017’s $6.1 billion.

However, Cambodia’s exports declined, reaching only $768 million in value, a decrease of 14.1 percent year-on-year. Imports from Thailand, meanwhile, grew by nearly 44 percent, reaching an impressive $7.6 billion.

Lim Heng, vice president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that Cambodia’s economy performed very strongly last year, backed by solid growth in construction and tourism, which allowed the country to increase imports from Thailand.

“Our economy has been performing very well while our people keep on spending, particularly in two main sectors, construction and tourism,” he said.

“We imported a lot of construction materials, foodstuffs and consumer goods from Thailand because we simply could not produce enough to meet domestic demand.”

Regarding the decline in exports to Thailand, Mr Heng commented, “Last year, Thai authorities at the border blocked our products because most of our exports were raw agricultural products, which they also produce.

“The Ministry of Commerce and the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce had a meeting with Thai authorities to discuss the issue,” he added.

During a Joint Trade Commission in February, both countries agreed to establish a working group to address trade issues. Officials believe the initiative will bolster commercial ties and help the countries achieve $15 billion in bilateral trade.

The new committee, composed of officials from the ministries of commerce of both nations, convenes every three months to discuss trade concerns and monitor the progress of initiatives.

Panyarak Poolthup, the Thai Ambassador, said in December that, “With the close relationship we enjoy in all aspects of government, trade between Cambodia and Thailand will continue to increase and we will reach our targets.”

CCC’s Heng also believes the countries will meet their bilateral trade goals.

“I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t reach the goal of $15 million in trade by 2020.

“Our economies keep growing every year, particularly the construction and tourism sectors. However, there are many products that we cannot produce locally, so we need to keep on importing,” he said.

Last year, Cambodia’s GDP grew at 7.3 percent backed by strong growth in the garment, construction and hospitality sectors, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

The government forecasts that the economy will expand at a rate of 7.1 percent in 2019 as a result of strong growth in exports and domestic consumption.

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