By Somluck Srimalee
“We started to write a master plan to develop trade and investment with Laos after visiting Laos early this month. This is a pilot project to negotiate with Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam later this year.
“The master plan will focus on trade and investment between Thailand and the CLMV countries. They will double the value of their trade with us and while Thai investment in CLMV increases, and will open opportunities for businesses in CLMV countries to expand their investฌment in Thailand,” Somkid said.
Last year, the total value of Thailand’s trade with CLMV countries was US$30.94 billion. Vietnam led the way with bilateral trade worth $13.85 billion, followed by Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos (see graphic).
Somkid said the master plan would focus on trade, investment, innovation, infrastructure development to link the region’s logistics system, development of small and mediumsized enterprises and intraregional supply chains, and opening opportunities for private companies in the four neighbouring countries to raise funds from Thailand’s capital market and duallist on the stock markets.
Phouvong Korasack, president of Mittaphap Development Agriculture Co, said in a recent interview with The Nation that Thailand’s private sector doing busiฌness in Laos would benefit from the European and US Generalised System Preferences (GSP). Phouvong is also president of the Lao Agro Processing Association and a board member of Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He added that Laos could offer Thai investors cheaper labour and land than they could find at home, while the Laotian government had also revised its investment promotion laws to attract foreign investment.
But it is not only Laos that can use its GSP privileges to benefit Thai investors, but Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam as well.
According to a Bank of Thailand surฌvey, the value of Thai investment in CLMV countries last year was $11.57 billion. Of that total, $3.88 billion was invested in Myanmar, followed by Vietnam with $3.59 billion, Laos with $3.05 billion, and $1.04 billion in Cambodia.
The Export and Import Bank of Thailand recently opened a representative office in Yangon, and plans to open offices in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam this year and next. Exim Bank president Pisit Serewiwattana said the offices would support Thai investors in the CLMV countries while also providing loans to local businesses importing raw materials and labour from Thailand.
Meanwhile, China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative plans to establish a logistics system linking China to Southeast Asia by developing a rail system across Asean, especially CLMVT (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand).
“In a period of global economic uncertainty, collaboration between Thailand and CLMV will be a way to boost our trade value and also drive the regional economy,” Somkid said.
“We cannot stay alone, but we have to synergise the regional resources to challenge foreigners to investme in the region. Thailand only has a population of 68.3 million with a gross domestic product worth $432.89 million, but CLMVT has a population of 242 million and combined GDP of $757.01 billion,” he said.