Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Cambodian riel has depreciated by -0.8% against the US dollar since 2016 and declined by -0.8% from 2019 to 2020. Cambodia’s weaker local currency make Cambodian exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data from 2020 shows that 85.9% of products exported from Cambodia were bought by importers in: the United States (30.1% of the global total), Singapore (14.8%), China (6.1%), Japan (6%), Germany (5.5%), the United Kingdom (4.7%), Canada (4.2%), Hong Kong (3.8%), Thailand (3.7%), Belgium (2.7%), Vietnam (2.2%) and the Netherlands (2%).
From a continental perspective, 40.1% of Cambodia’s exports by value was delivered to fellow Asian countries while 34.7% was sold to importers in North America. Cambodia shipped another 23.4% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to Oceania led by Australia (0.8%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.5%) and Africa (also 0.5%).
Given Cambodia’s population of 16.7 million people, its total $17.7 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $1,100 for every resident in the southeastern Asian country.
Cambodia’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Cambodian global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Cambodia.
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: US$5.2 billion (29.3% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $3 billion (17.2%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $2.3 billion (13%)
- Footwear: $1.1 billion (6.3%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $1 billion (5.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $762.1 million (4.3%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $638.4 million (3.6%)
- Vehicles: $559.4 million (3.2%)
- Cereals: $471.2 million (2.7%)
- Books, newspapers, pictures: $383.8 million (2.2%)
By value, Cambodia’s top 10 exports accounted for 87.3% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Books, newspapers and pictures was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 14,415% from 2019 to 2020. In second place for improving export sales was gems and precious metals via a 593.6% gain led by gold. Cambodia’s shipments of furniture, bedding, lighting, signs and prefabricated buildings posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 51.9%.
The leading decliner among Cambodia’s top 10 export categories was knitted or crocheted clothing and accessories thanks to a -13.6% drop year over year.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, gold represents Cambodia’s most valuable exported good at 17% of total Cambodian exports.
In second place were knitted or crocheted jerseys and pullovers (6.9%) trailed by cases, handbags and wallets (5.5%), knitted or crocheted women’s clothing (also 5.5%), knitted or crocheted t-shirts and vests (4.4%), unknitted and non-crocheted women’s clothing (also 4.4%), bicycles and other non-motorized cycles (3%), then rice (2.7%).
The following types of Cambodian product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: US$5.2 billion (Down by -13.5% since 2019)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $2.2 billion (Up by 0.2%)
- Gems, precious metals: $2 billion (Up by 587.4%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $988 million (Down by -8%)
- Footwear: $964.3 million (Down by -11.2%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $490.5 million (Up by 82.9%)
- Cereals: $394.6 million (Up by 7.6%)
- Books, newspapers, pictures: $353.7 million (Reversing a -$32.8 million deficit)
- Fruits, nuts: $120.5 million (Up by 125.6%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $95.3 million (Up by 200.2%)
Cambodia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of apparel. In turn, these cashflows indicate Cambodia’s strong competitive advantages under the clothing and accessories product categories.
Overall, Cambodia incurred an estimated -$1.6 billion trade deficit in 2020. That amount of red ink represents a -71% reduction from Cambodia’s -$5.5 billion deficit one year earlier.
Below are exports from Cambodia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Cambodia’s goods trail Cambodian importer spending on foreign products.
- Knit or crochet fabric: -US$2.3 billion (Down by -12.4% since 2018)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$1.9 billion (Down by -18.9%)
- Vehicles: -$1.1 billion (Down by -40.8%)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.1 billion (Down by -18.7%)
- Manmade staple fibers: -$883.2 million (Down by -11.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$527.9 million (Up by 2.3%)
- Paper, paper items: -$509.3 million (Up by 10.2%)
- Cotton: -$441.5 million (Down by -31.4%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$421 million (Down by -14.7%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$352 million (Down by -13.6%)
Cambodia has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the knitted or crocheted fabric-related category, materials that are key ingredients for producing clothing and accessories.
Cambodian Export Companies
Not one Cambodian corporation ranks among companies showcased on the Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exports-related companies from Cambodia. Selected examples are shown below.
- Cambrew Brewery (alcoholic beverages)
- Comin Khmere (construction & materials)
- Kampot Cement (construction resources)
- Kingdom Breweries (alcoholic beverages)
- Sokimex (oil, gas)
- The Royal Group (conglomerate)
In macroeconomic terms, Cambodia’s total exported goods represent 23.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($74.3 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 23.8% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 32.7% for 2019. Those metrics suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Cambodia’s total economic performance.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Cambodia’s average unemployment rate was 0.7% in 2020, unchanged from 2019 according to Trading Economics.
Cambodia’s capital city is Phnom Penh, nicknamed the “Pearl of Asia” and “The Charming City”.
See also China’s Top 10 Exports and India’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 24, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 24, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Wikipedia, Cambodia. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Cambodia. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on February 24, 2021
WorldOMeter, Cambodia Population. Accessed on February 24, 2021