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Govt urged to tackle exiting money-laundering grey list

The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking is expecting the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) to remove Thailand from its official grey list in 2015.

After the FATF removed Thailand from its Public Statement on Money Laundering/Financing of Terrorism, the private sector will urge the government quickly to consider organic laws of the Anti-Money Laundering Act in time for the FATF's consideration in the next two years, said Pongsak Assakul, senior chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC).

He said the upgrade to the grey list from the blacklist would help restore the confidence of investors and reduce the cost of Thai companies that have trade activities in the global market.

"What we have to do is to push Parliament to speed up consideration and approval of the existing organic laws before 2015 to ensure Thailand will be upgraded from the grey list," he said.

The FATF was one of two issues discussed at the meeting of the Joint Standing Committee yesterday.

Chartsiri Sophonpanich, chairman of the Thai Bankers' Association, who presided over the meeting, said the committee was bullish that the recent visit of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to Poland and Turkey would open up new markets for Thailand's private sector and strengthen investments and trade.

He said that despite the global economic slowdown, Thailand was in a good position to achieve economic growth of 4.5-5 per cent.

Chartsiri, who is president of Bangkok Bank, added that interest rates currently were at a level that could support economic growth, and financial institutions were also helping the private sector expand their business.

"The global economic situation is an important factor for Thai exports. We should follow capital flows, because several countries have sent warning signals that they will taper [monetary] measures, including quantitative easing, which will influence capital flows," he said.

Bangkok Bank has maintained its loan-growth target of 6-8 per cent this year even as several houses lowered their forecasts for growth of this year's gross domestic product.

Chartsiri said the bank had not seen a significant impact on the Thai economy but some businesses might delay their investment plans and adopt a wait-and-watch approach.

Pongsak added that Thailand's competitiveness in neighbouring countries had improved after the baht's depreciation, which had brought it in line with other Asean currencies.

The committee will propose the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership plan to the government as it believes the RCEP will support trade opportunities for Thailand rather than the US-initiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade pact.

"We think the TPP is a difficult way for Thailand unlike the RCEP, which is the integration of 10 members of Asean plus China, India, Japan and South Korea," Pongsak said.

He noted that the committee yesterday had also urged the government to set a national agenda for a Thai-European Union free-trade agreement because Thai exports would be affected after the EU's Generalised System of Preferences ends in 2015.


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