Myanmar seeks closer Thai business ties

THOUGH MYANMAR received only US$123 million (Bt3.84 billion) from Thai investments in the previous fiscal year ending on March 31, the nation’s investment body foresees a significant inflow of Thai businesses over the next few years.

Aung Naing Oo, secretary of Myanmar Investment Commission and director-general at the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, said Thai investments would grow from this year on, thanks to closer cooperation between the countries in both public and private sectors.

“Thai investments in Myanmar fluctuate wildly from year to year. In 2016-17 fiscal year, we approved $423 million in Thai investments. But we could not get more than one-third of that amount last year. Now it is time to grow further,” he said.

Statistics also show the fluctuation. Myanmar received $236 million from Thai investments in 2015-16 fiscal year while it approved only $166 million in 2014-15 fiscal year.

“We believe we will receive much more Thai investments this year, thanks to the efforts by the Royal Thai Embassy and the Thai business community here,” said Aung Naing Oo. “At DICA, we usually receive Thai investors every week. Most of them have obviously shown their trust on our economy.”

According to the official, Thai businesses are mostly interested in manufacturing and food processing. Myanmar has planned to attract more Thai investors by holding business seminars in the neighbouring country.

“Last year, Deputy Minister Sett Aung and I went to Bangkok to discuss the opportunities in Myanmar with Thai businesses. This year, we have been invited again to share updates on Myanmar’s business environment, and we are taking this invitation under serious consideration,” he said.

Unlike investment figures, statistics on bilateral trade have remained stable over the past seven years and beyond the military dictatorship in Myanmar. Since 2011-12 fiscal year, bilateral trade has exceeded $4.5 billion annually, except in 2016-17 fiscal year when it totalled nearly $4.3 billion. According to the Commerce Ministry, bilateral trade reached over $5.7 billion in 2014-15 fiscal year.

Thai businesses are interested in investing beyond the major cities of Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw, including seeking opportunities in the less-developed Tanintharyi Region that borders Kanchanaburi Province. They have closely cooperated with local businesses in Dawei, Myeik and Kawthaung.

Tun Tun Win, vice president of Myeik District Chamber of Commerce and Industry (and chairman of Pho La Min Trading Co), said the Chamber had received more than 50 business trips from different Thai delegations since 2012. In turn, the organisation has gone on 20 business trips to Thailand.

A 25-member Thai business delegation visited Yangon and Myeik from March 28 to 31. The delegation included representatives from Siam Thai Steel Co, Siam Thai Metal and Machinery Co, Z-Pun Thailand, NIM Express, Thanapat Serene Place Co, CI Group Public Co, Please Square Co, Sheet Lookphorkhoon Co, Studio 17 Co, Merck Auto Co, Prakob Beef Products Co, Chokthavorn Plastic Ltd, Chocolate Activation Co, Me-Idea Studio Co, and Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research.

Both sides discussed real estate, hotels and tourism, agriculture, fisheries, cosmetics, construction machinery and food industries.

“We introduced them to our 26 sister organisations based in Myeik,” said Tun Tun Win. “We had a fruitful discussion as we saw much room for cooperation in livestock and fisheries, tourism and agriculture. Moreover, they became fully aware that Myeik has a high potential for tourism growth thanks to our wonderful archipelago.”

He also foresees growth in logistics, fisheries and rubber production, as opportunities arise to trade consumer goods between Myeik and Bangkok through the Mawtaung border trade point. She believes many businesses in the district are eager to cooperate with Thai peers in rubber production and ecotourism.

“A number of businesses here are involved in the livestock and fisheries sector. But we are eyeing expansion of our rubber business. We are more than willing to increase our rubber plantation with Thai technology,” he said.

Vorapong Changchit of SME SEE Asean, which led the Thai business delegation, stressed the need for more engagement between the two business communities.

He expects to see many joint ventures between Thai and Myanmar businesses through closer collaboration and exchange experiences.

“We hope to do many things in Myanmar, as we understand economic growth and business opportunities here. We can see many things are close to Thailand. We feel like we came back to our hometown again,” he said.

Vorapong said building mutual understanding of each other between Thai and Myanmar business people would lead to a number of business deals in the near future.

Maung Maung Lay, vice president of Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Myanmar businesses are eager to grow in parallel with their Thai peers.

“Our lands are linked, and the people are connected. We share common goals, similar aspirations, identical features, etc. We can grow together, sharing values and prosperity,” he said.

“Due to the isolation for over 50 years, we are far behind the international context. Thailand is a friend in our need. Whenever we need a friend, Thailand is always there.”

Source : The Nation

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