A Change of Guard

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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Cambodia's trade imbalance a concern

By Sieam Bunthy 
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia's total trade climbed 19 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter, according to the Ministry of Commerce, with a deficit driven by the Kingdom’s reliance on key imports.

Photo by Pha Lina
  Employees work at a garment factory in Phnom Penh.
Total trade for the first three months of 2012 reached US$3.2 billion, up from $2.7 billion a year ago.

Imports, however, comprised $1.8 billion, or 56 per cent, of the total, as Cambodian markets continued to demand fuel, raw materials for the all-important garments sector and construction materials.

Exports of finished garments, rubber and rice, among other products, accounted for the remaining $1.4 billion of trade, according to the ministry’s figures.

Although the Kingdom’s business-friendly investment climate and growing economy accounted for the increase, Supreme National Economic Council adviser Mey Kalyan noted the potential problems inherent in the trade imbalance.

“It is still a concern, so we have to be a bit careful,” he said of the larger import total. “If it continues, it won’t be a good thing for us.”

Mey Kalyan pointed to the economic troubles in the United States and the European Union as one reason for the imbalance, in addition to Cambodia’s need to import materials crucial to its development.

But he stressed the need for the Kingdom to diversify its export markets, saying: “We must find more markets in the region like China as well.”

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce general director Nguon Meng Tech agreed that import figures were being driven by the Kingdom’s continued development.

“We now need these imports to meet local demand – for example, cement for building.”

At the same time, Nguon Meng Tech said the growth in the Kingdom’s milled-rice industry might help to fill the trade gap, adding to established sectors such as garments and rubber.

Total trade in 2011 reached 11.5 billion, according to the ministry.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sieam Bunthy at bunthy.sieam@phnompenhpost.com

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