WTO says Cambodia now part of global high-tech production networks

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia along with Bangladesh, Romania, and Vietnam have graduated from low valued-added supply chains to global high-technology production networks, the World Trade Organisation () says.

In its annual World Trade Report released this week, the WTO says Cambodia had the fastest growth in merchandise imports among selected economies between 2010 and 2021. In terms of exports of goods, Cambodia ranked fifth.

Cambodian imports grew at an average annual pace of 13.0 percent during the period. Vietnam ranked second (11.8 percent) followed by Macao (11.0 percent), Guyana (9.8 percent), Brunei (9.7 percent), Nepal and Guinea (8.9 percent), Nicaragua and Laos (8.6 percent) and Bangladesh (8.2 percent.)

Exports by Cambodia expanded by an average of 12.4 percent a year in the same period. That was slower than Guinea (18.7 percent), Rwanda (15.5 percent), Guyana (13.5 percent) and Vietnam (13.1 percent). But among others in the Top Ten, it was faster than DR Congo (12.0 percent), Mongolia (11.0 percent), Cyprus (10.4 percent), Laos (9.9 percent) and Sierra Leone (8.6 percent).

For the shorter period of 2010 to 2020, Cambodia's participation in global value chains — as measured by foreign value added in exports plus domestic value added in exports of other economies — rose 11.1 percent.

Cambodia's increase was second only to Vietnam's growth of 13.3 percent. Others in the Top Ten were Ireland (8.1 percent), Lithuania (6.5 percent), Romania (6.1 percent), Luxembourg (5.7 percent), Poland (5.2 percent), China (5.0 percent), Bulgaria (4.8 percent) and Costa Rica (4.1 percent).

The WTO noted that the fastest annual growth in exports and imports over the past decade was “almost exclusively” in developing economies.

“While much of this growth happened from a low base, also larger economies such as Viet Nam, Cambodia or Turkiye recorded strong increases in trade,” it said.

“This highlights that the trading system continues to have scope for further diversification.”


In the case of Cambodia, “the economy has emerged as a manufacturing hub, particularly in textiles, and agri-food industries.”

The report said low and lower-middle-income economies were increasingly accounting for global exports, with their share rising from 17 percent in 2001 to 31 percent in 2021.

Global value chains are expanding too, “both in terms of the products and the economies involved.

“The digital revolution is enabling further specialisation in business service activities and services offshoring.

“Bangladesh, Cambodia, Romania and Vietnam, which were previously specialised in low-value-added supply chains such as textiles and apparel, have entered the international high-tech production networks.


The WTO noted sharp falls in trade costs in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe between 1996 and 2018.

“They declined by more than 25 per cent in Cambodia, Bulgaria, India, Myanmar, Poland, Romania and Viet Nam.

“However, despite the narrowing gap, trade costs in developing economies remain almost 30 per cent higher than in high-income economies,” it said.


With digital advances, “there is no reason for trade not to continue to be the source of prosperity and poverty reduction that it has been for decades, should the right policies and environment enable further trade integration and re-globalisation to take place,” the report concluded.

“However, the challenge for re-globalisation will be to achieve global income gains as well as to help achieve a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable global economy if it is to counter inward-looking narratives.”

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