TAMIL NADU

Thailand tapping export potential

CHENNAI, FEB. 26. Representatives of 15 companies in the manufacturing sectors of Thailand will participate in a B2B (business-to-business) meeting and a mini-exhibition of the products of that country here on March 22 and 23.

Thailand, with which India has signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), coming into force on March 1, covering 84 products under an "early harvest" (fast track) scheme, is keen on tapping the export potential for its products, besides the scope for investment cooperation in the long-term, according to Ubolphan Klykoom, Assistant Director-General, Ministry of Commerce.

Addressing a meeting organised by the Southern India Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) here today, Ms. Klykoom suggested that Indian businessmen develop personal contacts and trade ties with their Thai counterparts before looking for cross-border investments. Referring to the issue of business culture, she advised them to refrain from forcing hard bargains on unwilling potential trade partners.

The third annual exhibition of Thai products here, organised by the Thai Trade Centre, Mumbai, would be held at the Chennai Trade Centre in July.

She said India and Thailand were still negotiating the rules of origin (ROO, which stipulate the minimum value addition norms for products in both countries eligible for FTA concessional tariffs). Pending conclusion of the talks, 40 per cent local content would be taken as the norm. (Products covered by the early harvest phase of the bilateral FTA include some chemicals, agricultural products, engineering products, auto components and telecommunication equipment. These will be eligible at both ends for 50 per cent concession of the respective MFN (most-favoured-nation) tariff for one year from March 1 this year, 75 per cent for the next year and nil duty from March 2006).

Prakob Panjacharoensiri, Director, Thai Trade Centre, and Commercial Consul, suggested to businessmen that they be ready with samples and quotations while embarking on talks with visiting delegations.

Members of the SICCI suggested coverage of pharmaceuticals, especially anti-AIDS drugs and herbal drugs, under the FTA, support to Indian importers of non-vegetarian products in obtaining quality/phytosanitary certificates in India and mutual recognition of certifying institutions.

S. Ramanathan, vice-president, SICCI, said India's imports from Thailand during April-October 2003 were worth about Rs. 1,531 crores and exports to Thailand, Rs. 1,865 crores.