New public-private panels to promote exports
The government and the private sector yesterday agreed to set up two special committees to promote the Kingdom's exports, in response to the rising level of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) amid a slowdown of trade growth, particularly in the European market.
One of the committees will follow up on the soon-to-be-started free-trade talks between Thailand and the European Union. The panel will include representatives from the government, the private sector and the social sector, who will aim to ensure there are fair benefits for all parts of society under a Thailand-EU FTA.
The other panel will monitor NTBs, so that the business sector is aware of and can react quickly to any unexpected new barriers that emerge.
After chairing a meeting between the Commerce Ministry and the Board of Trade of Thailand, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said the special panels would consider how to promote exports in the highly competitive environment expected under a Thailand-EU FTA, and how to cope with the rising level of NTBs, which are both major concerns for Thai traders.
The committees will also draw up strategies to promote trade growth should an unexpected situation arise, so that in the short term exports this year do not grow by less than the targeted 8-9 per cent, he said.
Both committees will be chaired by the Commerce Ministry's permanent secretary, Vatchari Vimooktayon.
The panel related to the Thailand-EU FTA negotiations will focus on ensuring that Thailand does not lose competitiveness because of trade, services and investment liberalisation, and that the social sector is not negatively affected by issues such tax reduction on alcoholic beverages and stringent application of intellectual-property rights.
Thailand and the EU plan to start bilateral talks after the official visit of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to Brussels from March 4-6.
The talks, which aim to establish a comprehensive pact, are expected to cover more than 10 topics. The government hopes to complete the negotiations within two years.
Boonsong said the European Commission's ambassador to Thailand, David Lipman, had informed the government that the EU had already received ratification from its 27 member states to start the talks.
Meanwhile, the second panel will monitor NTBs and send early warnings to Thai traders in order to prepare them for any new barriers that could affect their overseas sales.
The minister said the panel was important as the extent of NTBs, including anti-dumping duties and safeguard measures, had tended to increase amid the slowdown in global economic growth.
During the discussion between the private sector and government agencies, the Board of Trade also proposed that the government promote more trade growth between Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries in light of the Asean Economic Community's implementation in 2015.
Private-sector leaders called on the government to set up a one-stop service to facilitate cross-border trade within 24 hours. They also urged the authorities to keep border checkpoints open on a more permanent basis, such as at Giew Pak Wok in Chiang Mai.
Board of Trade chairman Phongsak Assakul said private enterprises, concerned about the rising level of NTBs, welcomed the government's decision to pursue bilateral FTA talks with the EU, as such a pact should ensure smooth export growth to the European market in the future.
With the current possibility that the EU will cut tariff privileges for Thai products under its revision of the Generalised System of Preferences by next year, the new panel's work in following up on the FTA negotiations should ensure fair and substantial benefits for all Thais, he said.
The private sector also expects the authorities to continue the efficient management of the baht's movement to ensure strong export growth.
"The baht's value should be stabilised in line with that of trade competitors. The government can cut the policy interest rate if it would help slow down the influx of short-term [foreign] investment that has caused the baht's appreciation," Phongsak said.