A motorcyclist and passenger travel past shipping containers stacked at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port in January, as trade levels increased by nearly 60 percent. Bloomberg
Friday, 18 March 2011 15:00 May Kunmakara
TOTAL exports surged nearly 60 percent in January, compared with the same period of 2010, according to figures released yesterday.
Officials said the increase was a result of last year’s free-trade agreements with a number of large East Asian countries.
Exports from the Kingdom grew by 59.6 percent for the month to US$418.4 million from $262.1 million for January of last year, according to the Commerce Ministry
Cambodia’s total imports also dramatically increased, climbing more than 127 percent in January to $639.5 million from $281.4 million in the same period last year.
ASEAN’s free trade agreements with China, South Korea and Japan came into effect in early 2010 and require members to reduce the vast majority of trade tariffs to zero. The four youngest members of ASEAN – Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar – can bring down the rates gradually and have until 2015 to meet the full requirements.
“Now, we see that the agreement is going smoothly – these are our new markets,” Chan Nora, secretary of state at the Commerce Ministry told The Post yesterday.
“Significantly, we have tried boosting local exports by urging concerned authorities to facilitate exporting,” he added.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, during the opening of this year’s Cambodia Outlook conference last Wednesday, called for the country to diversify its export destinations in Asia as regional integration increases, saying that United States and European Union markets could remain below their previous levels for some time.
“Asian markets could offer more prospects for export and income growth for Cambodia,” the Premier said.
“Thus, we have to diversify Cambodia’s economic structure to focus not only on serving the US and EU markets, but also the Asian market.”
The Commerce Ministry’s figure also showed that Cambodia’s garment and textile exports in January jumped 59.2 percent to $360.9 million from $226.7 million in January 2010.
Agricultural exports – such as rice, rubber, cassava and corn – soared 145.6 percent year-over-year. Van Sou Ieng, chairman of Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia, recognised the improvement of garment exports this year and said he expected they would keep on growing.
“This year, the sector is showing positive signs. I do believe that our garment exports will rise more than 20 percent” as a result of Cambodia’s recovering economy, he said.
Chan Nora said that he had seen a rise in agricultural exports earlier this year as the Kingdom shipped “thousands of tonnes of milled and unmilled rice” during the harvest season.
The total amount of imports into Cambodia, also rose dramatically. “The local demand is increasing because of the growth of the economy. We especially need garment raw materials to supply production,” said Chan Nora.