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Most SMEs have no time to adjust for AEC

More than 60 per cent of Thai small and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs) don't believe they will be ready for the Asean Economic Community when it takes shape next year, and that could lead to losses of trade and business opportunities.

More than 60 per cent of Thai small and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs) don't believe they will be ready for the Asean Economic Community when it takes shape next year, and that could lead to losses of trade and business opportunities.

Aat Pisanwanich, dean of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce's economics faculty and director of the International Trade Studies Centre, said that based on a recent survey, 63.1 per cent of about 512,000 small to medium manufacturers and exporters expected there was not time to adjust for the AEC. This means they may miss opportunities to make a presence in neighbouring countries.

The survey on "How Thai Exporters and Manufacturers Make Adjustments for the AEC" was conducted on 1,000 Thai exporters and manufacturers of 19 products.

These SMEs run the gamut from agricultural sectors like rice, fishery, chicken and rubber to labour-intensive manufacturing such as ceramics, textiles and garments, automobiles and parts, and foods and beverages.

"Based on the survey, 60.8 per cent need two and a half years to make the necessary adjustments," Aat said. Most large manufacturers polled would require a year and a half.

Last year, about 43.7 per cent of SMEs and exporters had not made any preparations for the AEC, while 42.2 per cent were in the adjustment process. Lack of knowledge and understanding about AEC trade agreements and market access was cited by 53 per cent of SMEs surveyed as a major factor for their slow progress.

The centre urged the government to set up a unit that functions like the Japan External Trade Organisation, and a Bt1-billion Asean fund to help SMEs make overseas investments, Aat said. Distribution centres for Thai products should be set up in neighbouring countries, and a network for manufacturing associations in Thailand and nearby nations, he said. Clusters of Thai SMEs should be encouraged to set up production or distribution bases in neighbouring countries.


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