Post-pandemic trade overhaul proposed
Food-led strategy seen as best option
Thailand needs to review the country's overall trade strategy after the pandemic abates and develop a national digital platform to handle changing global trading systems, according to the Commerce Ministry's planning unit.
Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office, said her office is proposing the Commerce Ministry set up a working group to adjust national trade strategies after the pandemic.
"The outbreak has resulted in sea changes in the global trading system, with consumers, traders and exporters opting to rely more on digital platforms," she said. "The government needs to seek appropriate solutions to promote Thailand's online platforms that are instrumental to national development. The Commerce Ministry is working with the Digital Economy and Society Ministry, academics, the private sector and related government agencies to promote online trading platforms, both in domestic and export markets."
According to Ms Pimchanok, Thailand should manage its own online platform like China's Alibaba, in keeping with the country's economic development direction and policies.
"We need to find a proper model if we want to develop our own platform," she said. "The government may rely on existing private platforms and provide full financial support and logistical development."
Ms Pimchanok said focusing more on the food sector is the obvious way forward, developing potential products and industrial sectors.
Thailand has not suffered any food shortages during the pandemic, as is happening for many major trade partners. The food sector still generates high export income for the country.
The government needs to come up with a clear-cut strategy such as R&D to support manufacturers, she said.
Ms Pimchanok said healthcare products and services also offer promising prospects in the wake of the virus crisis.
"The value of e-commerce in Thailand has grown between 8-10% per year, driven by consumer behaviour changes as online channels grow and a number of Thai-international platforms expand to support the number of online shoppers, higher confidence in e-payment and faster logistics and delivery services," she said.
According to the Electronic Transactions Development Agency, the value of Thai e-commerce grew 14% in 2018, reaching 3.2 trillion baht, with growth estimated to hit 20% in 2019.
Thai e-commerce growth was the highest in Asean, attributed to changes in consumer behaviour. In 2017, the value of Thai e-commerce was about 2.7 trillion baht, up from 2.5 trillion and 2.24 trillion baht in 2016 and 2015, respectively.