Htet Tayza discusses the Thai commerce minister’s recent suggestion that the value of trade between Thailand and neighbouring Myanmar will double in the next two years.
As members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an organisation that promotes economic and cultural growth in its member nations), Myanmar and Thailand have developed a close relationship. Data from Thailand’s commerce ministry indicates that Myanmar is the country’s seventh largest trading partner worldwide, and sixth-largest in the ASEAN organisation.
Specifically, bilateral trade between the two Southeast Asian nations totalled US$6.8 billion (246 billion in Thai Baht, the nation’s currency) on average per year, throughout the past half-decade. Meanwhile bilateral trade between Thailand and Myanmar equalled US$6.58 billion (Bt238.7 billion) in the first ten months of 2015.
Online business publication Nation Multimedia recently reported that Thai commerce minister Apiradi Tantraporn has detailed how Thailand and Myanmar plan to strengthen economic ties. Through programmes such as the Joint Trade Commission (JTC), which is designed to develop closer economic cooperation between the two powers, Tantraporn said that Thai-Myanmar bilateral trade will double to between Bt350 billion and Bt420 billion in the next two years.
Explaining further, the Thai commerce minister said that the two nations are looking to strengthen trade ties, investment and other forms of cooperation. This will, according to Tantraporn, help promote investment growth between Thailand and Myanmar. These ideas will be discussed at the seventh meeting of the JTC, which is scheduled to take place from 14th – 15th January 2016.
Tantraporn revealed that during this session delegations from Thailand and Myanmar will set trade targets. They’ll also strive to foster cooperation between their respective countries’ banking and financing sectors, in efforts to facilitate local exchange rates for trading between the two Southeast Asian powers.
The meeting will also be used as an opportunity to exchange information on trade rules and regulations, and figure out how to increase cooperation at cross-border checkpoints. Cross-border commerce accounts for 80% of trade between Thailand and Myanmar. The commerce minister also said that the delegations will discuss how to update checkpoints between the two nations to encourage trade growth.
Other issues that will be discussed at the JTC meeting include tourism promotion, the development of human resources and trade logistics. The two delegations will also look at cooperation between Thailand and Myanmar’s commercial banks and the trading of farming crops between the two nations, as well as how all the above outlined issues can be addressed to boost trade growth.
Htet Tayza’s commentary
In my opinion, Myanmar and Thailand’s efforts to increase trade growth should help the former country develop its rapidly growing economy. Data from the Asian Development Bank indicates that Myanmar’s economy expanded by 7% in 2014, and projected it would grow by 8.3% in 2015.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) has aided Myanmar’s economic expansion. The country’s deputy finance minister, Dr U Maung Maung Thein revealed at the opening of the Yangon Stock Exchange in December that Myanmar’s FDI increased by US$8 billion in the fiscal year to March 2015; US$3 billion more than economists expected. Thailand has been one of Myanmar’s most important foreign investors in the past, so engaging in efforts to boost trade between the two Southeast Asian powers could increase Myanmar’s FDI and allow its economy to thrive in the next two years.