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Deputy PM Jurin touts Bhutan trade talks in Phuket

Deputy PM Jurin touts Bhutan trade talks in Phuket

PHUKET: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce Jurin Laksanawisit has praised trade talks with Bhutan held in Phuket, saying that expanded trade and investment cooperation is hoped to push exports of Thai herbs and traditional medicines to Bhutan, boosting total trade between the two countries to B3.6 billion by 2025.

By The Phuket News

Friday 29 April 2022, 11:06AM

Mr Jurin made his announcement after the 4th Thai-Bhutan Joint Trade Committee (JTC) Meeting (Minister Level) together with Bhutan Minister of Economics Linpo Loknat Sharma at the Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket Hotel yesterday (Apr 28).

“Bhutan has a population of about 800,000 people. Total value of trade between Thailand and Bhutan in 2021 was B2.1bn, almost all of which are exports from Thailand to Bhutan,” Mr Jurin noted yesterday

“As a result, Thailand has a trade surplus with Bhutan of approximately B2.096bn,” he said.

Thailand’s main export to Bhutan was textiles, namely synthetic fabric apparel, comprising approximately 70% of the total export value Other products included electrical appliances, fresh fruit, and chilled, frozen and dried fruit, he said.

Thailand imports from Bhutan food products such as coffee, tea, spices and fruit jellies, as well metals such as small cast metal products of copper, he added.

Investment from Thailand into Bhutan was another factor, Mr Jurin said.

“For example, many Thai businessmen have invested in the service sector in Bhutan. in the business of hotels, accommodation, spas and restaurants, etc,” he said.

Mr Jurin said he raised several points at the talks.

“We should adjust the common trade target to increase from US$50mn next year to reach US$120mn by 2025, that’s from B1.2bn to B3.6bn, an increase of about three times over the next three years. In the past, the rate of trade between each other increased by 15-20% annually,” he said.

“The second issue was to ask Bhutan to support the export of Thai herbs and Thai traditional medicines for sale in Bhutan, in terms of having the products registered, facilitating the import of the products and launching them to market. This will be a new target for Thai exports and a new market for Thai herbs and traditional Thai medicines,” he said.

The third issue was to have an MoU on handicrafts which has now expired extended for another five years from the expiration date. “It will help promote community handicrafts and products of two countries exchanging with each other both in production and trade,” Mr Jurin said.

Another request was to extend the MoU on tourism between the two countries.

“The MoU originally made between the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Bhutan Tourism Council is about to expire. We would like to see that extended for another five years and to have DASTA included in the agreement so we can work together on sustainable tourism.

“We could then develop joint package tours so that when tourists from all over the world come to Bhutan, they can also come to Thailand, and tourists who come to Thailand can continue to Bhutan in the same package or tour program. This will be useful for both parties,” Mr Jurin said.

The goal was to work together with Bhutan to jointly promote each countries’ “soft power” as another important selling point between the two countries,” he said. “It will focus on arts, culture, lifestyle, food, handicrafts, etc., attracting tourists from all over the world to both countries,” Mr Jurin noted.

Mr Jurin invited businessmen in Bhutan to join the THAIFEX -ANUGA Asia 2022, the largest food trade show in Asia, which will be held in Thailand on May 24-28, and the fashion-related event The Marche by STYLE Bangkok from May 18-22.

He asked when Bhutan would relax entry measures for tourists into the country. “This is in order to support Thai businessmen who are looking to invest in hotels, food, spas, and so on, so they will be able to formulate business plans in advance,” he said.

Minister Lochnath Sharma in turn asked for Bhutan to enter a commodity-specific preferential trade agreement (PTA), such as it has with Bangladesh.

Mr Lochnath also raised the issue of Butan exporting apples, oranges and potatoes to Thailand. 

“Bhutan is implementing a new way of chemical-free farming. The [Thai] Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is currently considering conducting a pesticide-free analysis of these fruits,” Mr Jurin said.

Mr Lochnath had asked the Ministry of Agriculture to consider this matter urgently to facilitate the importation of essential goods of Bhutan to Thailand to be an alternative for Thai consumers in the future, Mr Jurin explained.

“This meeting is considered to have been very beneficial as it is an important opportunity to bring another category of products, namely Thai herbs and traditional Thai medicines, to Bhutan," Mr Jurin concluded.

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