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Sugar industry seeks liberalisation

Thailand should push for enforcement of a specific time frame and commitment from other Asean countries to free up their sugar markets, a Thai sugar-industry representative urged yesterday.

Cherdpong Siriwit, who chairs a committee coordinating three leading sugar-miller associations, said Asean nations should set out clear-cut timelines and conditions for opening up their sugar markets, which would facilitate sugar exports from Thailand to the region.

Thailand is the world's second-largest sugar exporter, shipping out about 10 million tonnes of the sweetener annually to international markets. About 90 per cent is sent to other Asian markets, and Asean takes 45 per cent of the Asian share.

Cherdpong said Asean countries with insufficient domestic supplies preferred importing sugar from Thailand because it was more convenient and the shipping cost lower than bringing it from Brazil, the world's largest sugar exporter.

However, Thai exporters face many obstacles in selling to other Asean countries that have postponed their import-tariff reductions or erected non-tariff barriers.

For example, Indonesia and the Philippines have exploited the Asean Economic Community's "sensitive" list to delay the cut of import duty on sugar to 5-10 per cent and 0-5 per cent respectively next year, while Malaysia has imposed an import quota and requires import licences.

"The three sugar-miller associations are concerned that even when the AEC becomes effective in 2015, these member countries will still maintain the policy to protect their domestic industries through continuing to postpone the liberalisation of the sugar trade, which will definitely affect the Thai sugar industry," he said.


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