Asean-China pact ramps up exports
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Asean-China pact ramps up exports

A worker harvests sugar cane in a field in Surin province.
A worker harvests sugar cane in a field in Surin province.

The Asean-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) has significantly boosted Thai exports to China, particularly processed sugar items such as syrup, artificial honey and various sweeteners.

Thailand posted annual growth of 145% for processed sugar exports to China over the past decade, according to the Foreign Trade Department.

Ronnarong Phoolpipat, the department's director-general, said China remains the leading export market for agricultural products, accounting for 42% of shipments.

Among the products in high demand are processed sugars (excluding raw sugar), such as syrup, artificial honey, caramel and other sweeteners used in food, beverages and pharmaceuticals.

In 2023, China imported processed sugar valued at US$983 million (31.4 billion baht).

Thailand dominated China's import market, securing the top position with a total value of $854 million (29.8 billion baht), representing 86.9% of China's imports.

The import volume from Thailand to China expanded by 103% year-on-year.

Mr Ronnarong said a key factor contributing to Thailand's export dominance in the category is utilisation of trade benefits under ACFTA.

The pact grants Thailand preferential treatment, including zero import taxes for processed sugar when accompanied by a certificate of origin (Form E) issued by the Foreign Trade Department.

Without the benefits of the ACFTA, the normal import customs duty, known as the "most-favoured nation rate", would be 30%.

In 2023, Thai businesses sought Form E certification for processed sugar from the Foreign Trade Department to apply for preferential rights to exempt them import taxes valued at $833 million (29.1 billion baht), a utilisation rate of 97.6%.

"Processed sugar is considered a high-potential product for Thai exporters, leveraging benefits from FTAs to expand their market presence globally," he said.

"In addition to the Chinese market, Asean is a high-potential market for Thai processed sugar as its population exceeds 600 million. Thai processed sugar is in demand, particularly in the food and beverage industry."

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