HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Thai product production law being worked out in parliament

Cabinet announces tax cuts

Thailand able to repay debts with IMF ahead of time

King advises brand name be created for Thai products

Thai product production law being worked out in parliament

Thailand is currently working on a law which would protect Thai products throughout the international marketplace. This law will mirror that which the World Trade Organization (WTO) defines as ‘geographical indications’ or GIs. Dozens of Thai products may be tagged for geographical-indications protection once the law passes parliament. These products include Thai hom mali rice from Buri Ram, salt eggs from Chaiya, ‘pomelos’ from Nakhon Chaisri and ‘mon thong’ durians from Chanthaburi.

Expected to be in effect next year, the law on geographical-indications protection passed through the senate in early December and was sent back to the lower house for another reading.

The World Trade Organization defines geographical indication as “indications which identify goods as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.”

For example, when consumers refer to whisky, they immediately think of Scotch. Genuine Scotch is only made in Scotland. The same thing applies to the wines of France. Genuine Champagne and Bordeaux come from regions of France. ‘Champagne’ from California or Australia is referred to as a ‘sparkling wine’. Many countries can produce red wine, but red wine is not Bordeaux unless it comes from this region in France.

A product protection law will be good for Thailand and will allow the country to register Thai ‘hom mali’ rice from Buri Ram, which tells the consumer it is high-quality rice from that region of Thailand. Other countries produce jasmine rice; however, after the law passes, they will not be able to call it Thai ‘hom mali’ rice.

Geographic indication laws will also protect Thai products from counterfeiting and illegal use of Thai names and destinations. These laws also provide the consumer with detailed information on the origin and quality of the product.

WTO members are considering how to extend geographical-indications protection to cover all products.At present it covers only wine and spirits. France has thus been able to protect its Champagne name. Other countries producing similar products can only call them sparkling wines. GIs will not only help consumers to identify and discriminate, the registration laws also help producers sell products at higher prices. (TNA)

Cabinet announces tax cuts

On December 3rd the Cabinet made moves to stimulate domestic consumption to protect the country from economic uncertainties next year by putting more money in the pockets of low-income wage earners. It approved a tax-cut package which will exempt individuals with annual incomes of less than 80,000 baht from paying 5% income tax. The present minimum is 50,000 baht. The package will take effect in January 2003.

The Cabinet also decided to continue boosting the property sector, which saw a strong recovery in 2002 and is projected to further expand in 2003.

The cabinet approved a proposal to let homeowners sell property and pay no income tax on the proceeds. However, the money must be used to buy a new home. Tax is payable if the new home costs less than the sold property, in which case tax is due on the difference.

Sellers must repurchase within one year of sale, and must actually live in the home for at least one year.

In another compromise to aid the real-estate sector, the Cabinet approved the extension of existing tax incentives for another year. This package includes a specific business-tax cut from 3.3% to 0.11% and a reduction of transfer fees for land and buildings from 2% to 0.01%.

Revenue Department director-general Suparut Khawatkul said the new tax cut will reduce the government’s revenue from personal income tax by approximately 4 billion baht per year, and the tax-incentive extension could cost the government another 11.7 billion baht annually. However, he said personal-tax cuts will stimulate increase in consumer spending. To balance things out the government projects that tax revenues from increased business capital spending will compensate for the losses from tax cuts. (TNA)

Thailand able to repay debts with IMF ahead of time

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has again stated that the government is in a position to repay debts with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ahead of schedule. He said the country now has political stability and considerable international reserves and its foreign debts have decreased.

The Thai leader said it was likely the government would make the debt repayment with the IMF ahead of time, but it needed to wait a while longer to assess whether a war between the United State and Iraq breaks out.

Thaksin said, “We sought loans from IMF to support our country’s international reserves. Now our reserves are sufficient. Why should we pay interest on the loans? Previously, we needed the loans to show our deposits were enough. But now the deposits are more than enough, so we no longer need to keep the loans.”

The premier said the government would be in a position to repay the debts by the end of this year or early next year. (TNA)

King advises brand name be created for Thai products

The government will create a symbolic brand name for Thai exports so that they will be easily recognized, according to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

On December 7th Thaksin said that the government will heed His Majesty the King’s advice that Thailand should have a common symbolic brand name for its products sold in the world market so that they would be easier to recognize by international consumers.

The symbolic brand name will help to upgrade the image of Thai products, and when it becomes well-known in the international community the prices for Thai goods can increase in the world marketplace.

The government says it needs time to come up with an appropriate name. (TNA)