Vehicles as well as auto parts and accessories topped Thai shipments to Asean in the first eight months of this year, valued at Bt164.8 billion, according to figures from the Department of Foreign Trade.
Among the top five exports to the region, the auto sector was followed by fuels, plastics, chemical products, and machinery and parts. Fuel sales grew at the strongest rate of 35.86 per cent for the period, said the department, which comes under the Commerce Ministry.
“Asean is now Thailand’s biggest export market. In the first seven months, up to 26.52 per cent of Thailand’s total exports were shipped to countries in the region,” said Adul Chotinisakorn, director-general of the Department of Foreign Trade.
“The most important exports for Thailand are those sent to the Asean states,” said Commerce Minister Sontirat Sonjirawong.
“Given Thailand's location in the centre of the Asean region, we stand to benefit greatly from exporting to other countries in the region, thanks to lower logistical costs. Furthermore, the Kingdom can benefit from functioning as a hub for other countries’ exports to each other,” he said.
From January to August, Thai exports to the Asean region grew by 9.04 per cent from the same period last year with Bt 1.45 trillion in total value.
Various government departments and business councils are working on projects to improve trade relations between entrepreneurs within the Asean region. There is a general consensus among various authorities that business matching events would only lead to short-term and superficial trade relations between entrepreneurs. This sentiment is reflected in several on-going projects, which aim to foster a stronger bond between entrepreneurs for a healthy long-term relationship.
For example, the Young Entrepreneur Network Development (YEN-D) programme, which aims to facilitate the development of strong entrepreneurial bonds between investors in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand (CLMVT), has attracted up to 1,200 entrepreneurs to its network, generating up to Bt3 billion in investments and trade value so far, according to Adul.
Thailand will host two Asean summits next year, aiming to further develop and improve Thai-Asean trade relations.
“Now that we have successfully reduced the trade barriers between Asean partners, the next step is to work on improving the efficiency and convenience of trade,” said Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general, Department of Trade Negotiations under the Commerce Ministry.
With regard to convenience, Thailand will be pushing for the full implementation of the “Asean single window” initiative.
Currently, Thai exporters need to obtain a ‘certificate of origin’ or ‘form D’ from the Thai Commerce Ministry in order to benefit from lower tariffs on their shipments to other Asean nations.
This has caused much inconvenience as port authorities in some neighbouring countries do not have the authority to approve the certificate. They have to forward the form to the headquarters for an approval, thus delaying the entry of Thai products to their countries, she explained.
To solve the issue, all Asean countries should launch the electronic version of the “form D” certificate in order to streamline the procedure, she said.
“Currently, Thailand, Malaysia Vietnam, Singapore, and Indonesia have adopted the electronic form D.
At next year’s Asean summits, Thailand will push its adoption by more CLMVT countries,” Auramon said.