The head of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has recommended that Thailand develop 10 areas to become a real hub of Asean and bring more trade and investment into the region.
Asean has been urged to adopt four key strategies to ensure achievement of Asean integration by 2015.
In a speech at a special session of the Asean Executive Management Programme on “Rising Asean in global economy”, Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary-general of Unctad, said that Thailand has a lot of potential to link the regional value chain. It should promote more value-addition in various industries such as automobile, medical and retail sectors, which can add value to all Asean countries.
Second, he said economic corridors of the Greater Mekong Subregion will significantly contribute to making Thailand a hub of Asean. The only obstacle now is the software side, such as regulations, which require every country in the sub-region to rectify and amend their own law accordingly.
Thailand also has to change its educational system. The current curriculum is insufficient to produce the necessary labour force for Asean job markets. Vocational courses should be strengthened. However, the great difference in salary for bachelor’s and vocational degree holders dissuade students from pursuing vocational degrees, he said.
The customs systems in all Asean countries have to be unified.
Thailand should promote a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an Asean-centred proposal for a regional free trade area. Thailand should set up a fund for labour development, he said
Thailand also should open up for skilled labour mobility. The competition will promote the development and increase the standard of Thai labour.
For single market and production base, promotion of investment is important. The mission of the Thai Board of Investment should be to promote investment inflow and outflow, he said.
Although Thailand has launched the Trade Competition Act, detailed regulations have not been issued. Thailand will be at a disadvantage in trading competition.
The Chiang Mai Initiative, regional financial safety nets, should be realised.
Moreover, there are more than 340 free trade agreements registered in the World Trade Organisation, however, only a few FTAs are efficient and effective and Asean is one of them, he said.
Supachai purposed four main strategies to further boost Asean growth.
A single market and base production must be truly realised. Currently, all Asean countries are tackling domestic worries about the mobility of skilled labour under the Asean Economic Community in 2015 by maintaining domestic regulations to prevent the movement. On the trade side, non-tariff measures among Asean need to be reduced.
Asean must improve logistics with a uniform customs system, unified standards of packaging and time consumption.
The gap between Asean countries has to be mitigated with the support of all Asean such as privileges for the less developed within Asean.
Asean should integrate further on the global stage and become a centre defining rules and regulations for the new financial system and Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Energy Minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisal said that Thailand will compete with China to become a central trader of energy for Asean. Thailand will assist Myanmar to develop hydroelectric power generations.
Transport Minister Chatchart Sithipan said the delayed rectification of regulations impedes Asean connectivity but the Bt2-trillion infrastructure mega-projects will help to ease the severity.