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Malaysia’s govt eyes smoother border commerce with Thailand

An oil truck from Malaysia passes the border at Sadao checkpoint in Songkhla. (File photo by Wichayant Boonchote). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

Pan Pacific Agency | COMMUICATION AGENCY FOR PACIFICA REGIONS

BANGKOK, Sep 2, 2019, Bangkok Post. The government is stepping up efforts to remove hurdles to cross-border trade between Thailand and Malaysia as the Commerce Ministry will host a business matching event for entrepreneurs of the two countries next month to boost bilateral trade. Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit was speaking after a meeting with representatives from the private sector to discuss measures to deal with obstacles to Thai-Malaysian border trade in Songkhla’s Sadao district, reported the Bangkok Post.

He was accompanied by Deputy Interior Minister Niphon Bunyamanee and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam.

The government and the Commerce Ministry have attached importance to boosting the border trade which plays a key role in improving the economy and local livelihoods in the deep South. The meeting was aimed at gathering feedback on ways to address obstacles to bilateral trade and boost trade value.

Last year, the value of Thai-Malaysian trade was estimated at more than 803 billion baht, and during the first half of this year, it was valued at 387 billion baht. Border trade between the two countries accounts for 70% of the total trade value.

Last year, Thai-Malaysian border trade was valued at more than 568 billion baht and during the first half of this year, the value was put at 271 billion baht. Mr Jurin also led officials to inspect progress of a second customs and immigration checkpoint in Sadao district to help congestion at the existing Sadao border crossing.

He said the existing checkpoint in Sadao has been plagued with customs bottlenecks, obstructing the flow of goods and tourists. In light of this, the meeting came up with an initial solution to double the number of immigration personnel to 100, and widen the road at the checkpoint from four to six lanes.

Mr Jurin also said that even though Thailand and Malaysia have agreed to open the checkpoint 24 hours a day for a one-year trial to reduce congestion, exports of Thai food to Malaysia are still slow because the Food and Drugs Administration has no officials working outside office hours at the checkpoint.

The governor of Songkhla will ask the provincial public health office to send officials to help ease the problem, Mr Jurin said.

He went on to say the construction of the second Sadao checkpoint is expected to be completed next month, though Thailand and Malaysia have differing opinions on the construction of a road connecting the two countries. However, the countries are in talks to iron out their differences and expected to reach a conclusion soon so construction can go ahead, Mr Jurin said.

The meeting also discussed measures to boost the value of Thai-Malaysian border trade. The meeting agreed the Commerce Ministry will hold a business matching event for entrepreneurs in Malaysia’s five northern states and Thai businessmen and exporters in the five southern border provinces in late October or early November, after which the ministry will set a date for them to conclude business deals, Mr Jurin said.

The meeting was also concerned about an issue which involves importers delivering palm oil from Malaysia via Thailand to other neighbouring countries such as Laos and Myanmar, he said. But the Internal Trade Department has found that in some cases, those importers did not deliver palm oil to the countries of destination as declared with the Customs Department, Mr Jurin said.

Instead, they kept the palm oil for sale in the country, which has led to a drop in prices of palm nuts, Mr Jurin said, adding the department has been told to take tough action.

Prayut pledges benefits

Meanwhile, government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has stressed the need for agencies to put the national interest first when considering incentives and privileges to attract foreign investors.

She was speaking after Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit presented Gen Prayut with a report of the outcome of his trip to Vietnam to meet Thai-owned financial institutions and Thai investors there.

She said investors had shown more confidence in Thailand’s investment climate after several infrastructure investment projects showed progress and the government recently issued a 316-billion-baht economic stimulus package to boost the economy.

However, Gen Prayut stressed the importance of putting the country’s interests first when granting incentives and privileges to foreign investors, Ms Narumon said. He wanted these measures to be designed in a way that will lead to a distribution of income to support the grassroots economy, and give small-and-medium sized entrepreneurs an opportunity to take part in the industry supply chain.

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