With the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) set to commence in 2015, many businesses are looking to expand and invest within ASEAN. Thailand, strategically located in the middle of the community, holds a few advantages when it comes to trading with its neighbours. And Myanmar is one of the most interesting of the regional trading partners, thanks to the country’s abundant resources, cheap labour and increasingly favourable investment laws for foreign investors.
Bangkok Bank, which has 100 branches serving seven provinces along the border with Myanmar, called on entrepreneurs who have successfully done business in Myanmar to share tips and trade secrets at a seminar at the bank’s headquarters on Silom Road.
Myanmar is the neighbour with the longest border with Thailand. The 2,000km-long boundary offers trade opportunities between the two countries through several passes. As of 2013, trade between Thailandand Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia was worth US$30,000 million, with $6,500 million of that between Thailand and Myanmar alone. And with 15 Thai products now back on the market in Myanmar after a ban was lifted in 2011, plus an agreement to exempt double taxation, there has never been a better time to look for business opportunities in Myanmar.
Somchai Sakdawekeeisorn, consultant at the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), confirmed that the board has implemented economic stimulant and support campaigns within the 12 special economic zones (SEZs) along border areas. Fundamental infrastructure will be improved and enhanced, creating greater privileges for investors.
“The government wants to entice foreign investors to come and local investors to expand, and at the same time civilians in the zones should benefit most from the booming trade,” Mr Somchai said. “Each zonewill be developed with different approaches and given different privileges depending on the existing economic and social climates.
“As of now the plans are not yet finalized, but they will be announced by the time the AEC commences. It is very likely that business owners in most zones will be able to use migrant workers. There will be tax deductions and one-stop service centres to assist in investment and migrant worker registration, as well as training programmes to create more skilled workers for Thailand-based production facilities. A lot of the budget will be allocated for roads connecting Thailand and Myanmar, and some construction projects have already begun. One of these is the new 22.4km-long road connecting Mae Sot and Myawaddy.