Effective COVID-19 control, FTAs boost Cambodia's int'l trade in Q1

Xinhua, April 18, 2022

The effective COVID-19 control measures and Free Trade Agreements (FTA) have helped drive Cambodia's international trade volume during the first quarter of 2022, officials said on Monday.

Cambodia's international trade reached 13.1 billion U.S. dollars during the January-March period this year, up 9.1 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE)'s latest report.

The export volume reached 5.7 billion dollars, up 25.7 percent, and the import volume was valued at 7.4 billion dollars, a slight drop of 0.9 percent, the report said.

Cambodian Ministry of Commerce's undersecretary of state and spokesman Penn Sovicheat attributed the growth to Cambodia's high vaccination rates, FTAs with other countries as well as market diversification.

"The effectiveness of vaccines that has allowed Cambodia to reopen its borders fully since last November and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact and the Cambodia-China FTA (CCFTA) that both entered into force on Jan. 1, 2022 are the key factors for boosting our trade growth in Q1," he told Xinhua.

"We predict that the upward trend will continue throughout this year and in coming years," he added.

The report showed that China is the largest trading partner of Cambodia. Trade volume between the two countries hit 2.87 billion dollars in Q1 this year, up 30 percent year-on-year.

Sovicheat said China is a huge market for Cambodia and that trade cooperation between the two countries has continued to rise despite disruptions caused by the COVID-19.

"Under the RCEP trade pact and the CCFTA, we're confident that Cambodia's export to the Chinese market will be bigger, especially the exports of potential agricultural produce such as rice, bananas and mangoes, industrial products, and processing goods," he said.

Senior economist Ky Sereyvath, director general of the Institute of China Studies at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, agreed that successful vaccination program and FTAs are the boosters for Cambodia's trade growth with other countries.

"Garment sector has played an important role in boosting our exports as other garment producing countries are still suffering from the impact of COVID-19," he told Xinhua.

Garment industry is the largest foreign exchange earner for Cambodia. According to the report, the southeast Asian nation exported garment products worth 3.15 billion dollars in Q1 of 2022, up 25 percent year-on-year.

Speaking of the rise in Cambodia-China trade volume, Sereyvath attributed it to the RCEP and the CCFTA as well as close ties and geographic proximity between the two countries.

"Better trade facilitation such as faster customs clearance and simpler documents for import and export is also a contributing factor," he said.

Cambodia has fully resumed its socio-economic activities and reopened its borders to vaccinated travelers without quarantine since last November after most of its population have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The kingdom has so far administered one dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 14.85 million people, or 92.8 percent of its 16 million population, the health ministry said, adding that of them, 14.11 million, or 88.2 percent of the population, have been fully vaccinated with two required shots.

Most of the jabs used in the country's immunization program are Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines.