Wed 31 Aug 2011
Filed under: Business / Trade,Opinion,Other
China has become Burma’s biggest business partner in terms of trading value, replacing Thailand, and is likely to benefit from the open-market policy the most, said Burmese and Thai businesspeople as well as the Thai Board of Investment (BoI).
Thai investors should penetrate potential markets such as Burma more, while the government must facilitate Thai companies wishing to expand their business not only in Burma but in other countries, including India and China, a seminar heard.
Vasana Mututanont, director of the BoI’s International Affairs Bureau, said during the seminar titled “Thai Investors Move Forward in India and Burma” that the Kingdom had been Burma’s largest business partner from 1988 to 2008, but it had lost this position to China over the past few years. China is expanding aggressively into Burma and now markets many consumer products there.
“Thai investors and the government cannot ignore Burma and should think about playing a greater role in the country,” she said. “The government of Burma has set a target to transform it from an agricultural-oriented to an industrial country by 2030. It needs more investment and trade. Thailand has an opportunity from this policy.”
The seminar was held by the Office of Industrial Economics and the Centre for International Trade Studies of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce to disclose research on the opportunities for Thai enterprises to invest in India and Burma.
Moe Myint Kyaw, president of the Myanmar Fishery Products Processors and Exporters Association, said Burma imported US$4.53 billion (Bt136 billion) worth of goods last year, with China, Thailand and Singapore the top three suppliers, in that order. China’s trade value was the largest at about $9.5 billion, followed by Thailand with a little bit lower value.
He said Thai businesspeople had many opportunities to invest in various sectors in Burma, particularly fishery, agriculture, food, wood, cement and infrastructure. However, Thai investors do not benefit as much as they could. Collaboration between the two countries is needed.
“The two governments should have a good relationship. I think the relationship today is so far so good.??? Good cooperation will prevent investors conducting hit-and-run-style business in Burma,” he said.
Thai businesses should think beyond how to sell their products in the Burmese market and plan to invest there, he said. Burma has limitations for exporting goods to other markets, lacking facilities such as ports. It needs Thailand as an export centre, as the cost may be lower than exporting directly from Burma. Hence Thai companies could use raw materials from Burma for production, while Burmese firms could undertake reprocessing and packaging in Thailand and use this country as their distribution centre.
Vichai Kemtongkum, managing director of Oriental Unique, a Thai trading company that has done business in Burma since 1994, said Thailand had lost market share in the neighbouring country to China even though it should have a trade value of many billions of baht with Burma. One obstacle may be concern about the security and stability of doing business with Burmese investors.
“As far as I’m concerned, Burma is safer than Thailand. Burmese investors are reliable. I have done business in Burma for many years and never experienced cheating by Burmese partners,” he said.
Surasak Chuasuknothip, deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Economic Affairs, said India needed to invest more than $1 trillion in infrastructure, and there was an opportunity for Thai contractors to take part in the investment.