Thai Border Imports Double Despite Export Lag

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 30 November 2015

MYAWADDY, Karen State — The total import volume of goods into Burma from Thailand has doubled in the last year at the largest overland border crossing between the two countries, according to new figures from the Ministry of Commerce.

From April to late November, the total of value of imports through Mae Sot into Myawaddy reached US$401 million, up from $198 million over the same period in 2014.

Imports included processed foods, electronic goods, construction materials, automobile parts and agricultural equipment, while exports from Burma, valued at a mere $21 million, were largely agricultural and marine products.

Exports totaled $16.7 million over the same period last year. Myint Kyaw, director of the Commerce Ministry’s Myawaddy border station, said that the widespread flooding in Burma over July and August had prevented a commensurate rise in export values after the destruction of paddy fields and other crops.

Myawaddy is the largest of five official checkpoints for overland trade between Burma and Thailand. Between 150 and 200 trucks from Thailand pass through the border station each day. The figure is growing steadily with the construction of a second bridge crossing over the Salween River and the gradual development of a special economic zone in Thailand’s Tak province.

At other Thai-Burma border stations, total border trade reached $70 million in Kawthaung, $109 million in Myeik and $10 million in Hteekhee.

More cross-border trade is expected following the signing of the ASEAN Economic Community agreement on Nov. 22, which directs the regional bloc’s 10 member nations to gradually reduce tariffs for goods traded between ASEAN countries.

As Thai imports increase, Aung Myo, a local trader based in Myawaddy, said that Burmese traders needed to plan for heightened competition with Thai products.

“Transportation is getting better now the Asian Highway’s route through Myawaddy is open, so we should try to send our products on the route as well, instead of just defending against Thai goods,” he said.

Total overland imports into Burma rose from US$3.7 billion in 2012-13 to $4.46 billion in 2013-14, compared to exports of $2.7 billion in 2013-14.

The vast majority of overland trade occurs between Burma and China. Muse, in northern Shan State, accounted for 83 percent of total border trade in 2013-14, according to the Ministry of Commerce.