Chamber pushes border trade

Chamber pushes border trade

Traffic at the Sadao checkpoint in Songkhla province, on the border with Malaysia. (Photo: Patipat Janthong)
Traffic at the Sadao checkpoint in Songkhla province, on the border with Malaysia. (Photo: Patipat Janthong)

The Thai government is being urged to accelerate the stimulation of border trade and establish joint special economic zones with bordering countries to boost trade and investment.

Such a move could help offset the impact from a spate of risks to the global market, such as a prolonged Russia-Ukraine war, an energy crisis and a sharp rise in the prices of agricultural raw materials and rare-earth elements, all of which would cause production costs in the manufacturing sector and product prices to rise accordingly, says the Thai Chamber of Commerce. Another risk is a broadening of trade retaliation between the US and China.

Surong Bulkul, vice-chairman of the chamber, said it proposed the government speed up the reopening of border checkpoints between Thailand and Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar in order to increase trade, investment and tourism.

Mr Surong said the government should consider allowing more imports of tapioca for energy purposes from Laos and Cambodia to balance bilateral trade volumes, which would help alleviate economic hardship in those countries.

Thailand needs measures to inspect and control the quality standards of imported tapioca, including steps to ensure it is free from diseases that affect the crop, he said.

"Thai entrepreneurs will lose opportunities and see higher competition if our neighbours sell their tapioca to Vietnam and China," said Mr Surong.

He said joint special economic zones with neighbouring countries should start by focusing on food processing industries that could help ease the flow of illegal labour to Thailand, as well as the influx of agricultural products from our neighbours.

"Workers from neighbouring countries could work in the zones and return to their homes in the evening, while Thailand could buy the agricultural products for processing in factories, then market them from our neighbours," said Mr Surong.

He said the southern part of northeastern Thailand has great potential for such zones, including Buri Ram and Ubon Ratchathani provinces, which have good roads and infrastructure.

Mr Surong said an increase in border trade would benefit small entrepreneurs and traders in the provinces and could serve as a development model for other economic segments, especially tourism as happened in Hat Yai, Songkhla.

Pitak Udomwichaiwat, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said Thailand already allows tapioca imports from neighbouring nations through selected checkpoints in a bid to control diseases.

The Commerce Ministry projected border trade to grow by 5% this year to 1.08 trillion baht.

Thailand's border trade shrank by 0.04% year-on-year in the first four months of this year to 314 billion baht, mainly attributed to China's closure of some key border checkpoints to contain the spread of Covid-19 under its zero-Covid policy.

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