Thailand hosts Mekong region e-commerce conference
Thailand hosted a conference of Greater Mekong Sub region countries last week where experts and specialists traded ideas and experiences in order to help its neighbors advance their digital economies and ready themselves for regional integration into the ASEAN Economic Community.
Meanwhile, Thailand became a party last week to a World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement that will abolish tariffs and duties on 201 products related to information technology. More than 50 countries have signed the WTO-brokered pact that expands upon its 1997 Information Technology Agreement. That agreement was renegotiated because many products developed in recent years were not covered under the original document. It is the first tariff-eliminating pact successfully negotiated by the WTO in 18 years.
The expanded agreement covers a wide range of products including advanced computer chips, GPS devices, printer cartridges and video-game consoles. Annual global trade in the products has been estimated by the WTO at over $1.3 trillion. “By taking this step, WTO members will help to provide a jump-start to the global economy,” the WTO’s director-general, Roberto Azevêdo, said.
Regionally, representatives of the other five countries of the Greater Mekong Sub region – Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam – hope to advance their own economies by embracing digital possibilities. All five countries attended the meeting entitled “Modernizing the GMS towards post-AEC 2015,” which took place at the Mekong Institute in northeastern Khon Kaen province. Minister of Energy Narongchai Akrasanee, who is also on the board of the Mekong Institute, hosted the conference.
Executives from Alibaba.com, the Chinese e-commerce trading giant that has transformed how business-to-business sourcing and selling is done, were also present to listen and offer advice. China is not a member of the AEC, but is part of ASEAN Plus 3, which also includes Japan and South Korea, and the geographic location of its southern Yunnan province places it in the Greater Mekong Sub region.
“As the AEC draws near, technology is given more and more importance. For Thailand, we have preparedness in terms of technology and our access to technology is greatly enabled by the lower pricing,” Narongchai said.
“When Thailand becomes an all-connected nation, it will need to strengthen energy security. Hence the AEC launch will allow ASEAN countries to support one another in terms of energy, so that is a win-win situation,” he said.
Institute Director Wacharat Lilawat said “Greater Mekong Sub region countries had been rather poor in the past so they had obstacles to potential development. [The Mekong Institute] helps boost manpower capabilities, especially in regard to e-commerce, which is the most effective channel for distributing goods.”
Thailand Focus August 3rd, 2015
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