The government has been urged to set up a fund to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) expand in neighbouring countries and strengthen their competitiveness for the coming Asean Economic Community (AEC).
Aat Pisanwanich, director of the Centre for International Trade Studies at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said yesterday that the fund should involve both the public and private sectors including the ministries of commerce and finance as well as the Board of Investment (BoI) and the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
The fund, with a minimum amount of 1 billion baht, will help SMEs to be more competitive in the Asean market, he told the “Investment Opportunities in Asean for Thai Investors” forum co-hosted by the BoI. “The fund will give various degrees of financial support for SMEs, depending on how much they need. Most importantly, their business should be already well-established,” said Mr Aat.
Chokedee Kaewsang, the BoI’s deputy secretary-general, said the board aims to help SMEs penetrate the markets in Asean including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia which have competitive advantages in terms of labour costs, market size and Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) tariff.
Thai operators in the textile and garment, leather goods and footwear as well as agricultural and processed food sectors are well placed to expand abroad because they are skillful in these fields, he said. “We’re focusing on Asean as the region is one of the biggest markets with 600 million people. The AEC will be a gateway for them to expand in a number of businesses in the near future,” said Mr Chokedee.
This year, the BoI has set up a policy to promote the entrepreneurs to shift investment from the domestic market to overseas. Seminars will be held this year with targeted participants from different backgrounds, most of who are from the automotive, agro and food processing, leather, feed mill, textile and garment sectors. “If investors only focus on domestic investments, they will lose their competitive advantages in the coming years,” he said.