Thailand, Malaysia to meet on setting up trade account
Thailand and Malaysia have scheduled a trade meeting in Kuala Lumpur today but the ongoing search for the combination to unlock their automotive compensation dispute is not on the agenda.
Thailand will mainly be pushing for the establishment of a trade account to facilitate two-way trade, sources said.
The Thai delegation, led by Commerce Minister Dr Adisai Bhodaramik, is here for a two-day visit and will meet International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz.
A Thai committee comprising Commerce Ministry personnel was set up and directed to prepare an operational plan for the Thai-Malaysia trade account, and this is likely to be the main topic of discussion, the sources said.
The establishment of the account will reduce the need to use cash in their bilateral transactions, and consequently the impact of fluctuations in currency exchange rates.
Net payments can be settled at the end of each year, for example.
Ministry of International Trade and Industry officials said the Thais had requested the visit and meeting with Rafidah to iron out some bilateral trade issues.
The recent import ban on Thai-made soya sauce may be brought up, they said.
Malaysia had stopped the product's imports following reports that it might contain a cancer-causing toxin known as 3-MCPD.
But Adisai is not expected to dwell on Malaysia's decision to delay lifting tariffs on automotive imports under the Asean Free Trade Agreement (Afta), and the negotiations for compensation by Thailand.
Bangkok has indicated that it prefers to address the issue at an international forum.
The Thai Government has reportedly given Malaysia until August 10 to come up with a list of trade concessions, failing agreement of which, some form of retaliatory action would be taken.
However, Malaysia is of the view that the Thais have no case as they cannot substantiate claims that the tariff cut deferment would hurt their industry.
Rafidah has pointed out that while Malaysia does buy some automotive parts from Thailand, most of these items are already included in Afta's Common Effective Preferential Tariff scheme.
The two countries could make no headway in resolving the issue despite holding four meetings so far.
In contrast, Indonesia, which had also asked for compensation, settled for automotive sector cooperation with Malaysia after only two meetings.
source: The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia), July 27, 2001, KAMARUL YUNUS