Call to boost bilateral trade in Malaysia-Thailand border areas

BANGKOK: Malaysia and Thailand want to enhance bilateral trade ties, especially in the border areas and are studying several proposals to achieve the goal, said Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani.

One of the proposals, he said, involved further facilitating the movements of goods and containers from Songkla Port in southern Thailand to Penang Port.

"The Thailand government is excited about this proposal as the distance between the two ports is 260km, or four hours of travel," he told Bernama after delivering the keynote address at the business forum here today.

The forum, which is jointly organised by the Malaysia-Thailand Business Council and Thailand-Malaysia Business Council, was held in conjunction with the three-day visit to Thailand by the Kuala Lumpur Business Club (KLBC) headed by its president Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz who is also the CIMB Group chief executive officer.

Earlier, Johari and the KLBC entourage paid a courtesy call on Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak at his office.

Johari said the proposal to build an inland port at Bukit Kayu Hitam would also enhance bilateral trade relations and boost the overall trade between the two countries.

He said the inland port would handle goods from Thailand en route to the export markets in West Asia and Europe due to the short distance involved.

"We will develop Bukit Kayu Hitam so that it would become the distribution hub in the region," he said.

Malaysia, which has an economy of US$300 billion (US$1 = RM4.20) and Thailand US$400 billion, should collaborate to enhance bilateral trade, Johari said.

"This is because of the combined economic value of US$700 billion for both the countries, the bilateral trade only amounted to US$20 billion annually. The opportunities for both countries to increase trade are tremendous," he said.

Malaysia and Thailand have targeted bilateral trade to grow to US$30 billion annually in 2018.

Johari said the KLBC's visit to Thailand was to seek business opportunities in various economic sectors, including financial services, which would further enhance trade relations between the two countries. — Bernama