The volume of merchandise traded between Cambodia and the UK reached $314.914 million in the first five months of 2023, down 12.62 per cent year-on-year from $360.380 million and down 29.42 per cent half-on-half from $446.17 million, despite the stellar performance witnessed in May, according to Customs (GDCE).
At the same time, Cambodian goods exports to the UK were to the tune of $275.034 million, down 16.59 per cent year-on-year from $329.733 million and down 32.84 per cent half-on-half from $409.49 million, according to provisional GDCE data in “International Merchandise Trade Statistics” bulletins.
Cambodia imported $39.879 million worth of goods from the world’s fifth largest economy in the January-May period, up 30.12 per cent year-on-year from $30.648 million and up 8.7 per cent half-on-half from $36.68 million.
Cambodia’s trade surplus – the amount by which a country’s exports exceed its imports – with the four-nation union for the five-month period came in at $235.155 million, narrowing by 21.4 per cent year-on-year from $299.085 million as well as by 36.92 per cent half-on-half from $372.82 million.
The UK was Cambodia’s 11th biggest trading partner for the period, representing 1.632 per cent, 2.995 per cent and 0.394 per cent of the latter’s international trade ($19.293 billion), exports ($9.183B) and imports ($10.109B), respectively, GDCE figures indicate.
Royal Academy of Cambodia economist Hong Vanak attributed the decline in trade with the former EU member state, especially in Cambodian exports, to global economic turbulence that began in the second half of 2022, chiefly as a result of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict which broke out a few months earlier.
He remarked that international trade has decreased practically everywhere, especially for non-food commodities.
“Given that textiles and bicycles make up the majority of Cambodia’s exports to the UK, a decline in shipments there would not be an outlandish scenario.
“Non-agricultural exports are not exhibiting promising signs at the moment,” he said, calling for the local export community to broaden its trade mix to meet demand on global markets.
Best export month since September
According to the GDCE, in May alone, Cambodian exports to the UK stood at $65.404 million, down 1.74 per cent year-on-year from $66.564 million, but up 10.32 per cent half-on-half from $59.285 million, up 29.6 per cent quarter-on-quarter from $50.476 million, and up 44.4 per cent month-on-month from $45.285 million.
May was the best export month since September 2022, when Cambodia shipped $76.805 million worth of merchandise to the UK.
That month’s imports, meanwhile, clocked in at $14.576 million, up 64.6 per cent year-on-year from $8.854 million, up 158 per cent half-on-half from $5.655 million, up 228 per cent quarter-on-quarter from $4.44 million, and up 87.7 per cent month-on-month from $7.766 million.
The UK was Cambodia’s ninth largest export destination and 16th-ranked import source in May, representing 1.936 per cent, 3.355 per cent and 0.668 per cent of the Kingdom’s international trade ($4.132B), exports ($1.949B) and imports ($2.182B), respectively, GDCE statistics reveal.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng remarked that, despite the Covid-19 emergency being over, fallout from the fighting in Ukraine is severely rattling global markets and pushing governments and peoples in every country to tighten their spending.
“Cambodia used to export a lot of goods to the UK in the past, but that has certainly been hampered by the British people’s reduced spending over the past year or so,” he opined.
Still, international trade is slowly starting to heat back up, he stressed, noting that the UK is major market for Cambodian goods and offers preferential trade treatment under its Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS).
Heng sees the DCTS as a kind of counterbalance to make up for the partial withdrawal of the EU’s ‘Everything But Arms’ trade scheme, which is said to affect roughly one-fifth of Cambodia’s exports to the bloc.
Cambodian exports to the UK are mainly garments, footwear, bags, bicycles and agricultural products, while notable imports include vehicles, machinery, and electrical and electronic equipment, according to Heng.
Apparel, vehicles, other goodies
GDCE data shows that, in 2022, the Cambodia-UK trade was worth $977.439 million, up 23.94 per cent from the year before but still down 8.99 per cent from the $1.074 billion recorded in 2018, the best year in the 2015-2022 period.
Last year, Cambodia’s exports to and imports from the UK were to the tune of $886.424 million and $91.016 million, respectively, up 21.12 per cent and up 60.2 per cent, expanding the former’s trade surplus with the latter by 17.83 per cent on a yearly basis to $795.408 million.
No breakdown was immediately available of the particular items traded between Cambodia and the UK at any point during the 2022-2023 period.
However, Trading Economics statistics show that, out of Cambodia’s $731.84 million worth of goods exports to the UK in 2021 (down from $830.92M in 2020), “articles of apparel, knit or crocheted” accounted for the lion’s share at $458.95 million (versus $460.10M in 2020), followed by “articles of apparel, not knit or crocheted” ($100.78M; vs $183.72M), “footwear, gaiters and the like” ($66.73M; vs $68.50M), and “vehicles other than railway, tramway” ($58.73M; vs $80.52M).
The next eight items were: “electrical, electronic equipment” ($10.72M; vs $9.37M in 2020), “articles of leather, animal gut, harness, travel goods” ($8.68M; vs $5.05M), “plastics” ($7.39M; vs $3.73M), “cereals” ($7.28M; vs $9.80M), “other made textile articles, sets, worn clothing” ($5.77M; vs $4.60M), “toys, games, sports requisites” ($2.74M; vs $1.63M), “stone, plaster, cement, asbestos, mica or similar materials” ($658.62K; vs $311.68K), and “headgear” ($655.79K; vs $943.91K).
For reference, the 12 categories respectively correspond to chapters 61, 62, 64, 87, 85, 42, 39, 10, 63, 95, 68 and 65 of the Harmonised System (HS) of Tariff Nomenclature.
Similarly, out of Cambodia’s $56.81 million worth of goods imports from the UK in (up from $51.53M in 2020), “vehicles other than railway, tramway” made up the most with $30.65 million (versus $28.77M in 2020), followed by “residues, wastes of food industry, animal fodder” ($7.96M; vs $2.57M), “pharmaceutical products” ($4.11M; vs $2.66M), and “machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers” ($3.09M; vs $5.27M).
The next eight items were: “beverages, spirits and vinegar” ($2.19M; vs $2.91M in 2020), “miscellaneous edible preparations” ($1.38M; vs $1.45M), “electrical, electronic equipment” ($1.18M; vs $2.12M), “paper and paperboard, articles of pulp, paper and board” ($994.46K; vs $512.12K), “tanning, dyeing extracts, tannins, derivatives, pigments” ($867.23K; vs $562.26K), “optical, photo, technical, medical apparatus” ($680.05K; vs $629.65K), “plastics” ($565.67K; vs $769.94K), and “manmade staple fibres” ($525.70K; vs $267.94K).
These 12 categories respectively correspond to chapters 87, 23, 30, 84, 22, 21, 85, 48, 32, 90, 39 and 55 of the HS.
Trading Economics notes that its figures are sourced from the UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UN COMTRADE).