Interview: Apiradi Tantraporn
What is your outlook on export growth recovery in 2017, and how can that recovery be achieved?
APIRADI TANTRAPORN: Strong growth at a higher pace than the previous year is expected for Thailand’s exports in 2017, with an overall export growth rate set at 5%. In 2016 exports grew by 0.45%, owing largely to the expansion of markets like gold, automobiles and fishery products. However, in 2017 expansion is likely to be more evenly distributed, and key industries are expected to recover due to an array of factors. These industries include: agricultural commodities, due to an increase in their price, as well as the price of oil and oil-related products; agro-industrial products, due to an increase in exports of canned and processed seafood; and industrial products, which is in line with the recovery of industries such as integrated circuits, computer components, and automobiles and automotive parts. Major macroeconomic factors that account for this improved projection include the fact that oil prices are on an upward trajectory and are expected to move in a narrow band between $50 and $60 per barrel, as well as the expected depreciation of the exchange rate to between BT35.5:$1 and BT37.5:$1. However, there are risks arising from the volatility of global economic recovery that could further depress global trade and investment, as well as create exchange rate fluctuations; so these factors must be monitored closely.
How will special economic zones along Thailand’s border areas facilitate growing regional trade?
APIRADI: The share of Thailand’s exports to its immediate neighbours of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) currently stands at approximately 10.3%, comparable to our share of exports to China, the US, the EU and Japan. For us, CLMV is a region of incredible potential going forward. With a population of 237m and an overall GDP of $680m, there is a considerable market for manufacturing and agriculture, as well as a great deal of opportunity for the service sector. The project’s main objectives are to attract foreign direct investment and technological transfer into border provinces, and to strengthen participation in regional value chains with neighbouring nations. Despite Thailand’s current emphasis on high-tech industries, labour-intensive and manufacturing-related sectors such as textiles, processed agricultural products, furniture, warehousing and logistics, and industrial estate services would be the first to benefit from these zones. The current target is for a 50% increase in cross-border trade to BT1.5trn ($42.3bn) as a result of more connected cross-border value chains with the fast-growing economies that surround us.
How can e-commerce be utilised to enhance the global competitiveness of businesses?
APIRADI: E-commerce is changing the way business is done globally, and the rapid development of digital technologies has transformed both business practices and the way societies operate. Our economy must catch up with this global mega-trend in order to stay competitive. We are promoting e-commerce business registration practices so businesses can publicise themselves and have their identities legally validated and recorded through channels. This includes the Department of Business Development’s DBD Registered mark. We forecast the number of online shops displaying this mark to increase by 78% in 2017. A business-to-business e-marketplace called Thaitrade.com has also been established to expand market opportunities for Thai products. Since beginning operations in 2011, it has amassed 19,550 Thai suppliers and 118,454 global buyers, and generates projected sales of about BT2bn ($56.3m). The ministry is aware of the importance of regulatory reform and the impact it has on e-commerce business development. Therefore, the scope of that reform is being examined carefully to ensure maximum positive impact for this type of trade.
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