BUSINESS
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ASEAN Indian FTA expected to be signed at Hua Hin summit

PM confident extra budget will boost economy

Thai economy slows sharply in Q4 2008

ASEAN Indian FTA expected to be signed at Hua Hin summit

A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India is expected to be signed during the ASEAN summit to be held in the Thai resort of Hua Hin from February 27 - March 1, a senior Thai commerce ministry official said.
Director-General Apiradi Tantraporn of the Foreign Trade Department said if the FTA is signed India will open up its markets for goods produced by the 10 member countries of ASEAN while tariffs imposed by the New Delhi government will be reduced to zero for 3,666 items by the end of 2012.
Among the ASEAN-made goods which will gain from zero tariff are refrigerators, fans, air conditioner parts, jewelry and ornamental goods, rubber products and plastic resins, Apiradi said.
Thai exporters wishing to receive tax privileges under the ASEAN-India FTA must ask for certificates of origin for goods from the Foreign Trade Department because items to be exported to India must contain at least 35 percent raw materials manufactured from ASEAN and India, she said.
Currently, only 82 items fall under the Thai-Indian FTA.
The ASEAN-India FTA, if signed during the summit, will help boost investment in India and trade among the Southeast Asian bloc member countries because of using raw materials manufactured by ASEAN members on goods to be exported there, Mrs. Apiradi added. (TNA)


PM confident extra budget will boost economy

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he was confident that a Bt116.7 billion supplementary budget would help cushion impacts of the economic slump, and that the funds would be injected into the economy as early as March.
The premier made the remarks after the bill won parliamentary approval early last Thursday.
The government pins high hopes on the extra budget to help stimulate the country’s economy amid global economic downturn.
The bill won the backing of 238 members of parliament out of 455 MPs present in its first reading.
The passage of the bill came after more than 11 hours of intense debate during which the Puea Thai-led opposition and the government traded accusations.
A special 35-member committee has been set up to thoroughly scrutinize the bill which must successfully pass through two more readings before being promulgated.
Among key economic stimulus measures included are cash handouts for low-income employees and the elderly, tax cuts, government-funded free education for 15 years and free rides on public transport.
Prior to the vote, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dismissed the opposition’s heavy criticism that the government’s economic stimulus package was tantamount to buying votes in advance, and that it would fail to spur economic growth.
The government responded that it had allocated the budget in response to immediate problems and priorities.
Long-term measures covering all sectors would be implemented with an aim to restore the economy, said the premier.
The Thai economy has slowed sharply in recent months, with the Bank of Thailand lately revising its 2009 growth forecast to just 0.5 - 2 percent, less than half the growth rate posted last year. (TNA)


Thai economy slows sharply in Q4 2008

The Thai economy slowed more rapidly in the fourth quarter last year with both domestic and overseas demand declining sharply, according to the Fiscal Policy Office (FPO).
FPO Director-General Somchai Sajjapong revealed on Thursday that private consumption in the fourth quarter slowed clearly as could be witnessed by a marginal increase in the value-added tax collection by only 0.1 percent compared 16.1 percent in the previous quarter.
The import of consumer products dropped by 2.5 percent and motorcycle sales increased by only 8 percent compared with 16.2 percent in the quarter before.
It reflected declined spending by people in provincial areas now that their incomes and purchasing power had declined since most farm products had decreased in parallel with product prices in the world market.
Private investment in the fourth quarter had also slowed, as witnessed by property tax shrinking by 5.6 percent against a growth of 22.2 percent in the previous quarter.
Many fiscal indicators showed net revenue collected by the government in the fourth quarter of 2008 totaled Bt272,800 billion, down 16.1 percent.
Exports totaled US$38.7 billion in value, a decrease for the first time in seven years, of 10.6 percent, while imports grew by 3.7 percent to $40.20 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $1.4 billion.
He said the country’s economic stability had improved continuously as the general inflation rate dropped to 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter the previous year from 7.2 percent the quarter before.
Reduced inflation stemmed from lower energy and food prices.
The unemployment rate stayed as low as 1.3 percent and the international reserve as of the end of December 2008 totaled $111 billion. (TNA)