The Foreign Trade Department of the Commerce Ministry suggests that the Thai private sector expand border trade and increase investment in Myanmar to prepare for Asean Economic Community, which takes effect next year.
Bangjongjit Angsusingh, deputy director-general of the department, said its officials visited Tak province to provide information on trade and investment opportunities in neighbouring countries to local business operators given Thailand’s geographical advantages. Tak and surrounding areas are located in the East-West Economic Corridor under the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation programme.
The lifting of trade sanctions by Western nations on Myanmar has attracted investors wanting to cash in on that country’s abundant natural resources and the lowest labour costs in Asean. Hence Myanmar would be a good target for labour-intensive industries. Thailand should boost trade with Myanmar along the 2,400-kilometre shared border, Bangjongjit suggested.
In the past the Foreign Trade Department, state and private sector representatives have discussed trade and investment opportunities with local business operators and trade associations. They have noted obstacles to border trade and means to boost it in the Myawaddy economic zone through trade promotions, exhibitions and so forth, he said.
Foreign Trade Department officials visited Myawaddy, which covers 1,165 rai (186 hectares) and is divided into two sections, for import and export. Among the goods being traded are Thai-made household consumer goods, agricultural products, ores and minerals, and wood products.
However, the traffic flow on the narrow roads is not conducive for trade, and will be expanded to accommodate two-way traffic for about 40 kilometres. Once the road expansion is completed, the commuting time and transport cost will be reduced significantly to support much more border trade activities in the future.
Thai-Myanmar border trade volume last year amounted to Bt196.87 million, with exports accounting for Bt79.45 million and imports Bt117.41 million. Thailand’s trade deficit was Bt37.96 million. Its main export goods were oil, beverages, cloths and yarns, while imported goods included natural gas.
Currently, the Mae Sot border crossing accounts for the highest trade volume of goods (excluding natural gas).