Thailand Drops Tariffs on Some Local Products

Thailand eliminated tariffs on several Cambodian agricultural products after a meeting between commerce ministers in Bangkok on Monday in a deal delayed for more than a year because of last year’s riots.

“The agreement had been prepared for last year, but the riots stalled negotiations,” said Boon­nam Kulrakampusiri, commercial minister at the Thai Embassy. “Now everything is OK.”

Thailand agreed to import duty-free Cambodian soybeans, maize, castor beans, potatoes, sweet corn, cashew nuts, eucalyptus and ground nuts, according to minutes of the meeting obtained Wednesday. Cambodia does not have to reduce tariffs on those goods exported from Thailand.

The agreement is part of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shina­watra’s Economic Cooperation Strategy, which aims to increase trade between the countries to elevate incomes in both lands, thus reducing the number of migrant workers seeking employment in Thailand.

“Thailand is trying to import products from Cambodia be­cause we think that if our neighboring friends have more money, it’s good for everyone,” Boonnam  said.

Though the Joint Trade Com­mittee was established in 2000, Mon­day marked its first meeting since its creation. The two sides planned to meet again next year in Cam­bodia.

“The meeting [on Monday] was intended to speed up the implementation of the Economic Cooperation Strategy,” Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said by telephone Wednesday.

Trade between the two countries, especially along the border, has more than doubled since 1998, when about $326 million worth of goods were exchanged. Last year, trade between the two countries amounted to just under $700 million, but most of that was exports from Thailand.

Along with offering duty-free imports of certain agricultural products, the Thais also agreed to invite Cambodian exporters to 12 trade fairs in Thailand this year. In return, Cambodia agreed to provide the facility for the Thai­land Exhibition 2004, scheduled to open today at the National Cultural Center.

About 95 Thai companies plan to participate in the event, which will feature Cambodian concerts and movies each night, said Boonnam.

“If relations with Cambodia were not normal, we could not do this,” he said. He declined to comment on the status of negotiations between the government and the Thai businesses that have yet to be compensated for damage inflicted during the anti-Thai riots.

During the meeting Monday, the Cambodian delegation re­quested that Thai authorities study the export processing zone currently being established in Poipet. In the future, the two sides plan to discuss opening another border gate at an unidentified location.

No explicit references were made to the riots last year at the meeting on Monday, according to the minutes.


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