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Thailand Opens Fisheries Sector to Asean Investors

09 March 2012, at 12:00am

THAILAND - Thailand is on course to open its fisheries sector to Asean investment ahead of planned market liberalisations.

But only investments that utilise high technologies and have a minimal impact on local communities will be considered, said Wimol Jantrarotai, director-general of the Fisheries Department, reports BangkokPost.

"The farming of lobsters and sea cage aquaculture, for instance, are categories that we would offer" to foreign investors, he said during a seminar held to prepare officials in the department for the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2105.

Under AEC, a single regional common market will be created by 2015 and will include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

The free flow of goods, services, investment capital and skilled labour are expected following the liberalisation.

The aim is to create a competitive market of over 600 million people.

Fish farming is currently barred under the Thai Foreign Business Act.

According to Dr Wimol, a fisheries investment could be initiated as a joint venture between Thai and foreign partners, and the foreign entity may be able to take full ownership at some point in the future.

But the area for sea cage aquaculture will be restricted. Investment must be substantial and proper environmental safeguards must be put in place.

The Andaman coast is considered an appropriate area for sea cage farming.

"Any investment must receive approval from the community to avoid disruption later on," he said.

Lobster farming is very advanced in Singapore, while Indonesia has the most sea cage aquaculture in place in Asean.

The value of trade between Thailand and countries in Asean totalled 272.5 billion baht in 2011, of which 62.7 billion baht was imported products such as oil, plants, seasonings, coffee and tea.

Dr Wimol said the influx of lower cost goods from neighbouring countries is expected and Thai agencies have to outline stringent measures to prevent substandard and contaminated products from entering the country.

Panisuan Jamnarnwej, president of the Thai Frozen Foods Association, said the AEC will minimally impact on labour.

The government estimates that up to three million foreign workers are in Thailand illegally, about 900,000 registered with the Labour Ministry.

Mr Panisuan said the AEC will allow more exports of Thai shrimp.

"We can ship the commodity out to cold storage plants in Viet Nam if local supply is excessive," he said.

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