Taiwan pushes for Thai trade deal

Taiwan pushes for Thai trade deal

Move could open door to big Chinese market

Taiwan, already ranked third among foreign investors here, is mobilising efforts to form a bilateral economic partnership with Thailand, noting that such an agreement would also boost Thai trade and investment with China.

Henry Ming-Jeng Chen (centre), of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Elina Hui-Ling Lee (right), executive director of strategic marketing at Taiwan External Trade Development Council, and Thai supermodel Paula Taylor at the 2013 Taiwan Excellence campaign. SOMCHAI POOMLARD

Berton Chiu, adviser and director of the economic division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Thailand, said his office has already convinced government officials and the private sector of the benefits of a bilateral economic partnership with his country.

Singapore is now the only Asean member to enter negotiations for such a partnership with the country.

Three years ago, Taiwan and China established the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (Ecfa), covering investment and services.

The two partners want to expand Ecfa to include trade, hopefully by year-end or in 2014, said Mr Chiu.

He said Thailand could enjoy greater access to China via Ecfa if it has a bilateral free trade agreement with Taipei.

Meanwhile, Mr Chiu said Taiwan looks forward to participating in regional integration under the the Asean Economic Community in late 2015, he said.

Faced with a chronic labour shortage and higher wages while new competitors such as Myanmar are just now emerging, Thailand should look at ways to sharpen its attractiveness, said Mr Chiu.

He said labour-intensive industries are no longer suitable for Thailand and recommended raising productivity instead.

With combined investment of US$13.2 billion, Taiwan is the third-largest foreign direct investor in Thailand after Japan and the US, with 5,000 Taiwanese companies operating here.

In terms of bilateral trade, Thailand ranks 14th among Taiwan's trading partners, with a value of $10.3 billion last year.

In the first six months of this year, Thai exports to Taiwan totalleded $2.18 billion, while imports from Taiwan amounted to $3.82 billion, making Thailand the fifth-largest Asean trading partner.

Elina Hui-Ling Lee, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council's executive director of strategic marketing, said as one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, Thailand continues to be a key market for Taiwanese businesses.

There is a considerable number of well-established Taiwanese brands and products in Thailand, some of them market leaders.

"Thais are huge fans of Taiwanese ICT products. Acer has been a leader in Thailand's notebook computer market for several years with a 33% share. HTC is a popular smartphone brand," said Ms Lee.

She said in terms of investment, Taiwanese auto-parts makers have built up a presence in Thailand, mainly in electronic partnerships and green and technology products.

This year's Taiwan Excellence campaign, organised by that country's Bureau of Foreign Trade, will foster greater awareness of Taiwanese products among Thais.

A total of 37 Taiwanese brands are participating, ranging from technology and home appliances to health care, leisure and sports.

The first event of the campaign is being held at CentralPlaza Lardprao from today until next Tuesday.

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