Foreign Trade of Cambodia
The government controlled all official foreign trade. In July 1979, the Ministry of Local and Foreign Trade set up the Kampuchean Export and Import Corporation (KAMPEXIM, the state trading agency) to handle exports, imports, and foreign aid. In addition, the National Trade Commission was created to be in charge of both internal and external economic coordination. In March 1980, the Foreign Trade Bank was formed to deal with international payments, to expand trade, to provide international loans, and to control foreign exchange. There were reports of special clearing arrangements for trade among the Indochinese countries and with some members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA, CEMA, or Comecon--see Glossary).
Beginning in 1982, the government made serious efforts to promote foreign trade as a means of accelerating national reconstruction and development. The First Plan emphasized exports as a way to correct imbalances in the national economy, but it did not provide any commodity export target figures. In the late 1980s, Cambodian officials released information revealing the direction and the patterns of trade rather than specific numbers. Most official trade was being conducted with Comecon countries in the form of exchanges of commercial goods. In the absence of authoritative data, unofficial Western sources placed Cambodia's trade deficit at US$100 million to US$200 million annually from 1981 to 1987. According to the Asian Development Bank, the country's total external debt in 1984 was US$491 million, up from US$426 million in 1983, and US$368 million in 1982.
In an attempt to increase foreign exchange earnings, the Heng Samrin regime in 1987 encouraged expatriate Cambodians to remit money to relatives and to friends remaining in the country. Cambodia's Foreign Trade Bank provided the names of sixteen banks in Western Europe, Canada, and Australia that were authorized to handle such transactions. The list included the Moscow Narodny Bank in London and several capitalistic financial institutions, such as the Societe Generale in France and the Union des Banques Suisses in Switzerland.
Composition of Trade
Since 1979 Cambodia's major imports have consisted of machinery, tractors, vehicles, fuels and raw materials for light industry, consumer goods, clothing, cement, and chemical fertilizers. According to government information, imports during the first 10 months of 1987 amounted to 97 percent of the plan target, an increase of about 130 percent over the 1986 figure.
The principal exports included natural rubber (latex), resin, maize, tobacco, soybeans, and timber. Private Western sources estimated Cambodia's 1985 export earnings at US$10 million. Other sources reported that they were $US3.2 million just one year later. In 1987 the government news agency reported that the volume of exports handled by the Kampuchean Export and Import Corporation in the first ten months of 1987 had increased tenfold over the corresponding period in 1979.