Thai businessmen to seek Japan’s easing on import rules

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BANGKOK, Jan 16 – The Thai private sector is asking that Japan relax restrictions on importing Thai rice and agricultural produce, according to the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC).

Pornsilp Patcharin-tanakul, TCC deputy chairman, said the move will be pushed through the government to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit to Thailand on Thursday and Friday.

Japan has imported 100,000 tonnes of rice from Thailand annually despite the World Trade Organisation’s ceiling of 800,000-900,000 tonnes, he said, adding that an alleviated protectionism will be a boon to the export of Thai rice and agriculture-related products.

He said the Japan-Thai Economic Partnership Agreement has contributed to Thailand’s export of various agricultural products despite prohibitions for some items such as large-sized pineapples and canned tuna.

Yields from Japan’s agriculture are sufficient for only 40 per cent of domestic consumption while 60 per cent are from imports.

Mr Pornsilp said Japan’s protectionism and high tariffs on imported goods have limited the growth of agricultural produce trading between Thailand and Japan.

Citing Japan’s import quota of processed pork from Thailand at 1,200 tonnes per year, he said the private sector will propose that Japan increases its imports tenfold in the next five years.

Japan was Thailand’s top trade partner last year with a combined trade volume of Bt2.1 trillion in the first 11 months, representing a 13.6 per cent increase. However, Thailand suffers a trade deficit with export to Japan at Bt672 billion, a 0.7 per cent increase, and import at Bt1.43 trillion, an 11.5 per cent increase.

Major exports from Thailand to Japan are automotive accessories and spare parts, processed chickens and computers while imports from Japan are mainly machinery, steel and auto spare parts.