Yangon lockdown not seen as trade hurdle

Yangon lockdown not seen as trade hurdle

Yet extended ban could be obstacle

A woman walks past a barrier blocking access to minor roads in Yangon. Much of Myanmar is under lockdown because of a surge in Covid-19. (AFP photo)
A woman walks past a barrier blocking access to minor roads in Yangon. Much of Myanmar is under lockdown because of a surge in Covid-19. (AFP photo)

Myanmar's extension of the Yangon lockdown for another 14 days after a record daily jump in Covid-19 cases is unlikely to affect border trade with Thailand.

Yet a negative impact is inevitable if the lockdown measures are extended beyond that period and cover more areas, said Niyom Waiyaratpanich, vice-president of Thai Chamber of Commerce.

Myanmar on Monday announced a stay-home order for its biggest city Yangon after reporting a record daily increase in new Covid-19 cases on Sunday. The order forces all employees to work from home. Schools were already closed under previous lockdown measures while domestic airlines announced services have been suspended until the end of September.

Two-way trade between Thailand and Myanmar totalled 101 billion baht in the first seven months this year, down 13.6%, according to the Foreign Trade Department. Exports from Thailand for the period tallied 51.4 billion baht, down 14.2% year-on-year, with imports worth 49.3 billion, down 13.1%. Key exports were non-alcoholic beverage, diesel and fabric, with key imports including natural gas, cereals and aquatic animals.

Mr Niyom said demand for Thai goods from neighbouring countries including Myanmar remains healthy, but the key stumbling block is transport with a number of border checkpoints closed.

Six border checkpoints with Myanmar have been reopened, but 15 remain closed.

He called on government to speed up talks with its neighbouring counterparts to reopen more border checkpoints, particularly harbours to facilitate the transport of small goods.

Keerati Rushchano, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said the department pledges to talk with responsible agencies, both in the private and public sector, to push for the reopening of more border checkpoints.

As of Aug 13, Thailand had reopened 40 of 97 border checkpoints nationwide.

The department reported cross-border trade fell 8.5% year-on-year in the first seven months, attributed to the closure of border checkpoints to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and the slowing economies of neighbouring countries.

Overall cross-border trade, including transit trade, totalled 741 billion baht for January to July, with Malaysia still the biggest partner by value.

Transit trade involves the passage of goods through more than one country.

Of the total figures, exports were 429 billion baht, down 8.2% year-on-year, while imports shrank 9% to 312 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of 116 billion baht.

Border trade with four neighbouring countries amounted to 434 billion baht, down 12.8% year-on-year.

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