The second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge to boost border trade
The recently-opened second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge is set to increase the Thai exports via Mae Sot checkpoint in Tak province next year to reach Bt105 billion-Bt110 billion, up 3.0-8.0 percent, according to Kasikorn Research Center.
The new bridge coupled with the Initial Implementation of Cross-Border Transport Facilitation Agreement will not only save transport cost and time, but also mark a turning point in making Thailand a center that links the manufacturing bases in the three countries Myanmar, Thailand and Laos.
On October 31, 2019, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob opened the second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge with Myanmar Construction Minister Han Zaw. Linking Mae Sot district and Myanmar’s Myawaddy, the new bridge will also ease the traffic congestion at the first friendship bridge.
Additionally, the Initial Implementation of Cross-Border Transport Facilitation Agreement for countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion between Myanmar and Thailand, effective October 22, 2019, will facilitate transport at the Myawaddy-Mae Sot checkpoint in Tak.
Under the agreement, cargo trucks from each side will be able to cross the border and be granted a permit to stay in the other country for 30 days. Hence, these trucks can go all the away from Myanmar, cross the Mae Sot checkpoint and arrive to Laem Chabang Port, or even go further to Laos.
At the same time, vehicles from Thailand can carry goods from the Mae Sot checkpoint to the Thilawa Special Economic Zone in Yangon, an extension from Myawaddy originally. The two bridges will help complete the loop of the East-West Economic Corridor project to link the Pacific Ocean and the Andaman Sea.
The latest development has enabled trucks to go directly to eight special economic zones in the region, namely, the Thilawa Special Economic Zone in Myanmar and the other seven SEZs along the East-West Economic Corridor, including Myawaddy SEZ, Hpa-An SEZ and Mawlamyine SEZ in Myanmar, Mae Sot SEZ and Mukdahan SEZ in Thailand and Savan-Seno SEZ and Savannakhet SEZ in Laos.
Once Thai transport vehicles can pass through the Danang SEZ, Quang Tri SEZ and Lao Bao SEZ in Vietnam, it will make the regional supply chain more complete, according to Kasikorn Research Center.
The Mae Sot checkpoint is a major gateway for border trade between Thailand and Myanmar. Border trade between the countries totaled Bt190 billion in 2018, 78 billion of them through Mae Sot district.
Thailand is the third largest import source for Myanmar after China and Singapore, with Thai products accounting for 13 percent of total imports to Myanmar.
Due to geographical advantage as Thailand shares a long border with Myanmar, more than 70 percent of Thai exports entered Myanmar via border-trade. The Mae Sot checkpoint in Tak province is the most important checkpoint for border trade because of its strategic location.
Most of the exports are consumer goods, which also entered Myanmar through checkpoints including Ranong and Mae Sai.
Thailand’s consumer goods for everyday life are regarded as high quality products by Myanmar consumers. Thai consumer goods represented 17.7 percent of the total consumer imports in Myanmar in 2018, increasing from 9.4 percent in 1990.
Although the Thai export value during the first nine months of 2019 totaled only Bt68 billion, a contraction of 3.9 percent from the same period last year, the new transport routes have made Myanmar the market with prospects for Thailand, said Kasikorn Bank’s research unit.