November 04, 2012 00:00 By The Nation on Sunday Nong Kha
Bid to grow economic ties between Thailand, Laos, Vietnam
Thailand expects to gain significantly from a rapid expansion of cross-border trade and investment with Laos and Vietnam as the three nations join the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, a seminar was told yesterday.
The economy of land-locked Laos is set to grow by leaps and bounds after the neighbouring country recently became the newest member of the World Trade Organisation, according to Pitsanu Janvitan, the Thai ambassador to Laos.
The Laotian capital, Vientiane, will host the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) summit tomorrow.
Nguyen Huu Dinh, Vietnam’s consul-general in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen, told the seminar held by Krungthep Turakij newspaper and KTTV that Vietnam and Thailand can work together in various areas, including workers’ skill development and education.
According to the consul-general, Vietnam exports many workers to Asean countries and elsewhere, including Japan, while Thailand and Vietnam currently cooperate on education and student exchanges.
Universities in northeastern Thailand this year have attracted more than 500 Vietnamese students.
The number of Thai tourists travelling to Vietnam is forecast to reach one million in 2015, he said.
Bilateral trade between Thailand and Vietnam topped US$9 billion (Bt276.9 billion) in the first nine months of this year.
Vietnam is Thailand’s No 9 trading partner, with steel, seafood and raw materials being major Vietnamese exports.
Thailand has invested in 292 projects in Vietnam worth a combined $6 billion, mostly in the processing and manufacturing industries (144 projects), and agriculture and forestry (23 projects).
In addition, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos are all involved in regional development and cooperation frameworks including the Greater Mekong Sub-region development programme.
At the provincial level, an association of Thai, Vietnamese and Lao provinces and cities along highways No 8 and No 12 facilitates the cross-border flow of people and goods.
Ambassador Pitsanu told the seminar that all three countries should work together closely on joint economic development schemes covering trade and investment, education, tourism, industries and agriculture.
Pitsanu said all three countries would continue to open up their economies over the next three years under the AEC framework. This would give the countries an advantage because of their physical proximity.
For example, four Thai provinces in the Northeast – Nong Khai, Bung Kan, Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan – are on the Mekong River, so residents can use the three Thai-Lao friendship bridges to cross the border, allowing land connectivity with Vietnam, Pitsanu said.
Some Japanese firms, for example, produce machinery parts and components in Vietnam and then transport them by truck to Laos and Thailand, where they are used in final assembly of machinery and equipment.
Meanwhile, Pinit Jarusombat, a former Thai industry minister, said Lao exports to Thailand in 2011 amounted to about Bt35 billion with copper accounting for 40 per cent.
Thai exports to Laos are forecast to rise to Bt130 billion this year, up from last year’s Bt100 billion, with machinery and equipment accounting for 40 per cent of Thai shipments.
Thailand imported Vietnamese goods worth a total of Bt61 billion last year, but the figure is expected to rise to around Bt69 billion this year.
However, Thai shipments to Vietnam are forecast to drop to Bt150 billion this year from last year’s Bt210 billion, due largely to rapid development and changes in the Vietnamese economy.
“The combined volume and value of border trade involving the three countries will form a cornerstone of the Asean Economic Community,” Pinit said.