HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Deputy PM opens Phase 2B Central Airport Plaza

Thailand-China, the glorious combination?

MOF concedes war and SARS will affect GDP growth

Automobile production to hit record high

GMO labeling to begin May 11

ASEAN pushes for free trade with 5 outsiders

Deputy PM opens Phase 2B Central Airport Plaza

Supatatt Dangkrueng

The grand opening ceremony of Central Airport Plaza Phase 2B was presided over by Deputy Prime Minister Korn Dabbharangsri on April 26. The opening was marked by his sounding the Sabad Chai drum.

Deputy PM Korn Dabbharangsri cuts the ribbon to launch the new phase 2B of Central Airport Plaza.

Deputy PM Korn chats with Kobchai Jiratiwat before visiting the new phase.

Deputy PM Korn shows his cooking style.

Kobchai Jiratiwat, managing director of Central Pattana Public Company Limited, stated that the new phase included the Northern Village and Kad Luang Airport showcasing Northern Thai Cultures and heritage with many products from local business sectors.

The 5,300 square meters Northern Village is providing products from the One Tambon - One Product scheme. Decorated in Lanna style, it is a center of northern handicrafts, ornaments, artists and local artisans, appealing to all lovers of the Lanna culture.

The 3,000 square meter Kad Luang Airport located on the ground floor gives the atmosphere of Kad Luang or Waroros Market, but is air-conditioned. Shoppers can purchase Chiang Mai and Lanna products like naem, pork skin crisps, nam prig noom and sai ua.

The Deputy PM showed how to cook and season ĎNam Prik Noomí, the famous spicy dish made by the northern people.

Thailand-China, the glorious combination?

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Thailand and China were looking at a cooperative scheme at the International Tourism Borse (ITB) in Berlin, Germany in early March, according to Chalermsak Suranunt, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand Northern Region 1 Chiang Mai Office.

The scheme was formed in accordance with the intimate relationship between the two countries. It aims to develop the travel routes between Thailand and China and set Chiang Mai as the center of the links.

The concept is to present the history and culture of China together with the charming sea beaches of Thailand and using Chiang Mai as the port of entry. The Glorious Combination scheme has selected interesting places in both countries such as Chengdu, Mount Emei, Kunming, Dali, Lijiang and Shangri La in China and Bangkok, Ayuthaya, Sukhothai, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Krabi, Phuket and Samui islands in Thailand. The TAT hopes to interest tourism organizations in Europe to rekindle tourism to SE Asia.

MOF concedes war and SARS will affect GDP growth

Finance Minister Capt Suchart Jaovisidh has conceded the war in the Middle East and the epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome could affect the economy to such an extent that the estimate of gross domestic product growth may have to be revised. He said the two events would definitely have an impact on the Thai economy. The Fiscal Policy Office has been instructed to closely monitor the situation since the two events are external factors, which are beyond the governmentís control.

Capt Suchart said the outbreak of SARS in Asia is having more impact than the war between the United States and Iraq.

The real effects of the war in the Middle East on Thailandís the economy is still to be analyzed. But the effect of SARS epidemic has been already felt on tourism and other related businesses.

The countryís state revenue could be affected if the epidemic worsens, but for now, revenue collection for the month of March was around two billion baht higher than originally estimated.

Praphat Pothivorakul, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said the SARS epidemic had not obviously affected the industrial sector. What should be closely monitored now was the slowdown in tourism because it could reduce purchasing power both locally and overseas, and finally have an impact on the sector.

Total production and purchase orders from overseas were not adversely affected by the war. However, goods delivery did slow down. (TNA)

Automobile production to hit record high

Thailandís automobile production looks like it could set a new record this year.

Figures from the National Statistical Office show that car ownership in the year 2000 stood at 20 percent in the provinces and 32.6 percent in Bangkok. A report recently issued by Thai Farmers Research Center (TFRC) states that Thailandís flourishing automobile industry has potential for enormous growth.

TRFC said domestic economic conditions and consumer purchasing power were the most important determinants to domestic car sales. The economic crisis of the late 1990ís showed that consumersí spending patterns were fragile when it came to purchasing automobiles, which led car sales to nosedive, especially in 1998, when car sales plunged 60 percent.

But this volatility also means that car sales saw a rapid revival as the economy picked up, with a 37.8 percent increase in 2002.

Low interest rates combined with the expanding economy are likely to push domestic car sales up to 500,000 and increase total car production to an unprecedented 700,000 units. (TNA)

GMO labeling to begin May 11

Thailandís Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will enforce the labeling of 22 products containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) from May 11, with fines starting at 30,000 baht for companies violating the new rules.

The FDAís deputy secretary-general Dr Sathaporn Wongcharoen said that the FDA made its decision to introduce GMO labeling after several meetings brought together the public, private sectors and academia, together with public hearings designed to record the views of ordinary members of the public and the media.

Twenty two listed products made from GM sweet corn or soy beans must be labeled as such if the GM products in question are among the top three ingredients, and if the GM content is more than 5 percent. The ministerial announcement also bans the use of labeling suggesting that a product is GM-free.

Dr Sathaporn said, "If food manufacturers are unsure of whether or not their products are covered by the new regulations they can send samples of their goods to the National Science and Technology Development Agency, Ministry of Public Health, or the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives for analysis."

The FDA will work together with provincial health authorities to collect food samples from local shops and markets to check that they are labeled correctly. (TNA)

ASEAN pushes for free trade with 5 outsiders

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is speeding up negotiations that may end with free trade areas opened up with five other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and is hoping to sign a trade deal with the United States at the end of this year.

Commerce Minister Adisai Bodharamik announced that during a recent informal meeting of ASEAN economic ministers it was acknowledged that there is a need to forge ahead with the negotiation on the Free Trade Agreement between ASEAN and China, India, Vietnam, the United States and Japan.

The commerce minister said, "Negotiations are progressing. Some members including the Philippines were reluctant to open an FTA with China, but have now softened their stance."

Manila was unwilling to allow China to ship fruits and vegetables into the country since it was afraid that their local farmers would be affected by the opening of FTA.

Dr Adisai said he believes leaders of ASEAN members nations will be able to sign an FTA agreement with the US during the summit to be held later this year.

The meeting discussed the possible impact from the US-Iraq war and the epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) on ASEAN and plans to hold talks with the European Unionís Trade Committee on ways to boost economic cooperation.

An issue of EUís strict examination of Thailandís food imports was highlighted in the discussion. (TNA)