JETRO: Japan wants Thailand to lead in AEC

June 22TF-3The head of the Japan External Trade Office (JETRO) in Bangkok told a seminar last week that his country would like to see Thailand take the lead in coordinating the member states of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) to make business and trade more efficient and harmonized.

Masayasu Hosumi, president of Jetro’s Bangkok office and its chief representative for ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and South Asia called on Thailand spearhead harmonization of regulations and cross-border transport during the “Invest ASEAN Thailand 2015” seminar hosted by Maybank King Eng Securities in Bangkok. The seminar attracted 400 participants and 30 domestic and foreign companies with total assets under management of over $4 trillion.

“We really want to see some progress in the soft infrastructure. I [would] like the government of Thailand to take the lead to make the AEC meaningful in terms of arrangement and coordination among the ASEAN member states,” Hosumi said.

“Some kind of bilateral arrangement is needed, especially for an issue that is deeply related to business activity, namely the single-stop inspection, harmonization of regulations and, eventually, we [would] love to see 24-hour operations for procedures at the border areas,” Hosumi said.

He added that the Thai government should foster member states to come to an agreement on cross-border transport to facilitate the free flow of commercial vehicles. Where there has been some development in building the hard infrastructure for this, the development of soft infrastructure is still lacking.

Japan has a long trade and investment relationship with Thailand. The Kingdom has been arguably Japan’s favored destination for investments in manufacturing during the past several decades, although Japan has many investments in all of the AEC countries.

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will launch later this year. It will remove barriers on trade, investment, services, the movement of labor and capital. Thailand shares borders with four other member states and has taken steps to make cross-border trade easier, and is setting up special economic zones in border areas, but policies differ in different member states.

The AEC has a population of over 620 million and consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.

The launch of the AEC is expected to give an economic boost to most member states, and participants at the seminar said they expected Thailand’s economy and capital markets would pick up in the second half of this year.

“As a gateway to both ASEAN and the GMS (Greater Mekong Subregion), Thailand serves as a valuable connector that no company with interests in this region can afford to overlook,’’ said Maybank Kim Eng CEO Montree Sornpaisarn.

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