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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        7  April 2011

Troubled regions still good markets

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The Middle East and North Africa still have potential for Thai exports despite serious political problems in the region, insists Kiat Sittheeamorn, the president of the Thailand Trade Representative (TTR).

The TTR is closely monitoring events in the two regions, which currently account for a very small amount of total Thai exports.

Mr. Kiat said Thai exports and investment had been affected slightly by the civil war in Libya, and it would be hard to forecast when conditions might improve.

Previously, Thailand had expected to use Libya as a distribution centre for products exported to North African markets. It also hoped to promote Thai construction companies in the country, which had been planning a number of infrastructure and industrial development projects.

Thai trade with North Africa (Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Libya) over the past three years averaged US$2 billion a year, or 0.6 percent of all Thai exports, according to Kasikorn Research Center.

Last year, Thai exports to the six countries were worth $1.55 billion, up 25.8 percent, while import value fell 8 percent to $525 million.

Mr Kiat noted that in Bahrain, political tensions had eased and trade cooperation was making progress, with orders mainly uninterrupted. Trade with other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) was also steady and Thailand therefore should be able to maintain exports to the region, he added.

Bahrain is also a target for Thailand as a product distribution centre to other GCC countries. Thai businesses plan a venture with local investors to establish a Thai distribution centre.

In 2010, Thai exports to the Middle East were valued at $9.66 billion, about 5 percent of total Thai exports, while the imports were worth $20.98 billion.

Mr. Kiat said the Middle East had many high-income consumers and was increasing its consumption of automobiles and parts, air-conditioning, jewelery and construction materials.

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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