Illustrative photo (Source: themalaysianinsider.com)

Bangkok (VNA) –
Thailand, one of the ten countries with the strongest competitiveness in Southeast Asia, is ready for both opportunities and challenges from the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), a Thai official has said.

Vitavas Srivihok , Deputy Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs said that his country is expected to become a centre for trade, investment, tourism and logistics services in the region when the AEC is formed by the year’s end.

Locating in a strategic position in the Southeast Asian region, Thailand has abundant natural resources. It is the second-largest economy in ASEAN, with its GDP in 2014 hitting 373.8 billion USD. The country also boasts a high-quality public health system and modern infrastructure facilities.

Thailand is one of the ASEAN members to enjoy the most economic benefits from the AEC formation, he said, adding that trade between it and other ASEAN members is forecast to be expanded in the coming time.

The country will also benefit from the next key steps towards the full realisation of the AEC, including liberalisation of trade in services, investment and labour movement as well as from ASEAN cooperation models such as the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Economic experts said that the establishment of the AEC with tariffs of nearly zero among the ASEAN members, will bring great opportunities to Thailand’s export-based economy.

The community will provide Thailand with a market which is nine times larger than the country’s 67-million population.

With 33 provinces connected to its neighbouring countries, Thailand will gain access to cheaper labour and immensely rich natural resources and energy such as natural gas from Myanmar, electricity from Laos, coal from Indonesia and oil from Malaysia and Brunei.

However, the AEC will also pose challenges to the Thai economy as the country will have to remove trade barriers and open the door for other economies in the region.

Thai businesses are forecast to meet more severe competitions because its economic structure is similar to some other ASEAN member nations. Additionally, the movement of qualified labourers among the regional countries will create a fierce competition between Thai employees and those from other ASEAN countries. A recent survey shows that only 8 percent of Thailand’s labour force is said to be skilled, while the rate in Singapore is 35 percent and Malaysia, 20 percent.

With opportunities and challenges arising from the upcoming formation of the AEC, the Thai Government and people have been making active preparations to effectively tap opportunities and deal with challenges, thus promoting the country’s economic development.-VNA