By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
Niyom Wairatpanij, chairman of the Economic Cooperation with Neighbouring Countries Committee under the Board of Trade, said border trade between Thailand and its four immediate neighbours as well as trilateral trade among countries such Singapore, China and Vietnam should increase significantly after the full integration of Asean countries.
"Hardware development such as roadways and connectivity is ready to link Thailand and other countries, but some regulations and details of cooperation with each country that Thailand and neighbouring countries should be discussing are not yet finalised," he said.
Some stringent rules and regulations should be relaxed to facilitate more trade and investment through border countries such as Malaysia to Singapore and through Laos to China and Vietnam.
Bilateral and trilateral trade should be one of the country’s key priorities in promoting trade as it is costless and can help ease local companies’ entry into international commerce.
Thailand should engage in individual or trilateral talks among trading partners in Asean so that they can help clarify problems and seek concrete solutions and plans to help promote trade.
"Cross-border trade continues to play a more important role for Thailand with closer economic cooperation ahead of the AEC. More Asean members, especially Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, are reducing duties and will need to trade with and promote more investment from Thailand.
With uncertainty over global economic growth, the promotion of cross-border and through trade should be highlighted, he said.
Asean trade should double under zero duties with the AEC.
Thailand’s border trade with neighbouring countries is targeted to double to Bt2 trillion after Asean integrates itself next year, or increase by 20 per cent each year starting now, thanks to the seamless market.
However, Thai traders still have concerns that some ineffective regulations could hamper border trade. Since being stuck with a caretaker government because of the failure of the election, Thailand has not been able to pass amendments to these regulations.
According to the Commerce Ministry, cross-border trade and trilateral trade with Singapore, Vietnam and southern China reached Bt1.03 billion last year, or 7.1 per cent of Thailand’s total trade. Cross-border trade with the four countries that have land connections to Thailand was worth Bt924.24 billion, while trilateral trade was Bt9.9 billion.
Malaysia is Thailand’s largest border trading partner with two-way trade of Bt501.1 billion last year, followed by Myanmar with Bt196.86 billion, Laos Bt132.13 billion, Cambodia Bt93.83 billion, Singapore Bt55.74 billion, southern China Bt37.84 billion and Vietnam Bt16.57 billion.
Major cross-border exports were rubber, automobiles and parts, computer parts, diesel fuel and rubber products. Major trilateral shipments were computer parts, non-alcoholic beverages, fresh and frozen fruits, motors and electric circuits.