Cambodian goods exports to India reached $91.526 million in the first four months of 2023, Customs (GDCE) reported, as King Norodom Sihamoni makes his maiden visit to the world’s most populous country, marking the culmination of celebrations of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two nations.
This figure represented a 64.2 per cent year-on-year surge from $55.746 million and 42.1 per cent half-on-half jump from $64.40 million, according to provisional Customs (GDCE) data compiled in “International Merchandise Trade Statistics” bulletins.
The volume of merchandise traded between the two countries in January-April 2023 was to the tune of $161.138 million, up 15.77 per cent year-on-year from $139.188 million and up 20.8 per cent half-on-half from $133.39 million.
At the same time, the Kingdom imported $69.612 million worth of goods from India, down 16.6 per cent year-on-year from $83.442 million but up 0.9 per cent half-on-half from $68.99 million.
Cambodia recorded a trade surplus – the amount by which a country’s exports exceed its imports – of $21.914 million with the Group of 20 (G20) member nation for the four-month period, compared to deficits of $27.697 million in January-April 2022 and $4.59 million in July-October 2022.
India was Cambodia’s 18th biggest trading partner for the period, representing 1.063 per cent, 1.265 per cent and 0.878 per cent of the Kingdom’s international trade ($15.161 billion), exports ($7.234B) and imports ($7.927B), respectively, according to the GDCE.
Speaking to The Post on May 30, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng reflected on the magnitude of economic boost that ramping up the Kingdom’s exports of high-potential commodities to India may provide, considering the vast size and population of the major South Asian power as well as the extensive cultural and historical ties that exist between the two nations.
Following a period of declines during the Covid-19 crisis, trade between the two countries is growing significantly, particularly Cambodian exports to India, he said.
“Although imports and exports between the two countries aren’t very large yet, I hope that through better government-to-government relations, the volume of bilateral trade will accelerate soon,” he said, suggesting regular commercial flights to drive trade and tourism between them.
Heng cited agricultural and textile-related commodities as high-potential items for sale to India, mentioning hi-tech, pharmaceutical and medical products as notable imports from the world’s fifth largest economy.
Meanwhile, King Norodom Sihamoni on May 29 arrived in New Delhi on his three-day state visit to India, as the two countries commemorate the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
A press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the King will grant royal audiences with Indian President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during which bilateral and multilateral cooperation will be discussed.
Last month alone, the Cambodia-India merchandise trade volume came to $44.11 million, up 21.8 per cent from $36.2 million in April 2022 (year-on-year), up 27.4 per cent from $34.63 million in October 2022 (half-on-half), up 18.2 per cent from $37.3 million in January 2023 (quarter-on-quarter), and up 40 per cent from $31.61 million in March 2023 (month-on-month), according to the GDCE.
Cambodian exports reached $22.941 million, up 56.5 per cent year-on-year from $14.659 million, up 62 per cent half-on-half from $14.174 million, up 1.91 per cent quarter-on-quarter from $22.511 million, and up 58.5 per cent month-on-month from $14.476 million.
Imports stood at $21.168 million, down 1.8 per cent year-on-year from $21.546 million, but up 3.5 per cent half-on-half from $20.456 million, up 43.1 per cent quarter-on-quarter from $14.794 million, and up 23.6 per cent month-on-month from $17.131 million.
India was Cambodia’s 14th largest export destination and number-13 import source last month, representing 1.128 per cent, 1.245 per cent and 1.024 per cent of the Kingdom’s international trade ($3.909B), exports ($1.842B) and imports ($2.067B), respectively, GDCE numbers show.
Ministry of Commerce spokesman Penn Sovicheat told The Post that the two-way trade between Cambodia and India had been steadily growing prior to the pandemic, adding that the huge, populous Indian market has strong purchasing power as well as demand matching what Cambodia can offer.
The bulk of bilateral trade comprises agricultural and light-industry products, consumer goods and technological services, he said, adding that the Kingdom is currently looking into the feasibility of establishing bilateral free trade agreements (FTA) with other jurisdictions such as India, the UK, US, Japan and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
Sovicheat explained that FTAs could improve trade among signatories, as well as entice foreign entities to invest in the production of commodities that, for example, are in great demand on the Indian market.
In 2022, the amount of merchandise exchanged between Cambodia and India totalled $440.00 million, up 41.37 per cent from $311.24 million in the previous year, according to the GDCE.
Cambodia’s exports to and imports from India were to the tune of $196.632 million and $243.372 million, respectively, up 56.0 per cent and up 31.43 per cent, narrowing the former’s trade deficit with the latter by 20.9 per cent on a yearly basis to $46.74 million.
No breakdown was immediately available of the particular items traded between Cambodia and India at any point during the 2022-2023 period.
However, Trading Economics statistics show that, out of Cambodia’s $126.07 million worth of goods exports to India in 2021 (up from $62.24M in 2020), “animal, vegetable fats and oils, cleavage products” accounted for the lion’s share at $51.18 million (versus $20.07M in 2020), followed by “organic chemicals” ($32.80M; vs $82.25K), “articles of apparel, knit or crocheted” ($10.10M; vs $9.55M), and “footwear, gaiters and the like” ($6.66M; vs $3.49M).
The next eight items were: “rubbers” ($6.13M; vs $11.70M in 2020), “electrical, electronic equipment” ($6.03M; vs $6.22M), “articles of apparel, not knit or crocheted” ($3.05M; vs $2.32M), “vehicles other than railway, tramway” ($1.94M; vs $508.20K), “machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers” ($1.71M; vs $657.28K), “coffee, tea, mate and spices” ($1.58M; vs $1.35M), “other made textile articles, sets, worn clothing” ($1.16M; vs $1.94M), and “articles of leather, animal gut, harness, travel goods” ($830.55K; vs $388.24K).
For reference, the 12 categories respectively correspond to chapters 15, 29, 61, 64, 40, 85, 62, 87, 84, 09, 63 and 42 of the Harmonised System (HS) of Tariff Nomenclature.
Similarly, out of Cambodia’s $185.17 million worth of goods imports from India in 2021 (up from $129.41M in 2020), “pharmaceutical products” accounted for the most at $47.41 million (versus $36.22M in 2020), followed by “vehicles other than railway, tramway” ($35.53M; vs $29.12M), “electrical, electronic equipment” ($12.69M; vs $8.18M), and “meat and edible meat offal” ($11.29M; vs $3.16M).
The next eight items were: “machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers” ($10.77M; vs $12.81M in 2020), “residues, wastes of food industry, animal fodder” ($9.92M; vs $4.34M), “manmade staple fibres” ($7.68M; vs $5.26M), “paper and paperboard, articles of pulp, paper and board” ($7.17M; vs $1.70M), “pearls, precious stones, metals, coins” ($5.29M; vs $795.33K), “miscellaneous chemical products” ($4.31M; vs $1.76M), “cereal, flour, starch, milk preparations and products” ($4.11M; vs $223.03K), and “raw hides and skins (other than furskins) and leather” ($4.00M; vs $4.46M).
These 12 categories respectively correspond to chapters 30, 87, 85, 02, 84, 23, 55, 48, 71, 38, 19 and 41 of the HS.
Of note, statistical discrepancies and asymmetries in trade figures are common between different sources. Trading Economics sources its figures from the UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UN COMTRADE).