KOTA KINABALU: Both Sabah and Thailand stand to benefit from doing business with each other due to their strategic locations, says the Ambassador of Thailand to Malaysia, Narong Sasitorn (pic).
He said Thailand's east-west and north-south corridors will give Sabah immediate access to the CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam), as well as to the southern provinces of China.
Thailand, meanwhile, stands to benefit from Kota Kinabalu as the main gateway to the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
Sasitorn added that the planned relocation of Indonesia's capital from Jakarta to Borneo (Kalimantan) will add business dynamism and consumption to this region.
“We hope Thailand can be a part of the business activities in this growth area, ” he said at the “Bridging Trade and Investment Relations Between Thailand and East Malaysia (Sabah)” trade forum and business matching event on Wednesday (Aug 21).
Sasitorn added that Thailand can provide products such as automotive parts, organic food, high-value agricultural products and construction material to the market here.
“From Sabah, we want to import aquaculture, furniture, manufacturing and biochemical products.
“Apart from trade, Thailand can support Sabah's vision to diversify into agriculture -- fruits, orchids and farming.
“In tourism, we have direct flights between Bangkok and Kota Kinabalu, but we have to look into some kind of partnership in medical tourism and niche tourist packages, ” he said.
He said Malaysia is Thailand's No. 1 trading partner within Asean with a total trade value of US$25bil (RM104.3bil) annually, adding that there is room for more growth.
Meanwhile, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, who is also state Finance Minister, echoed Sasitorn's sentiments that the automotive sector is something they could become trade partners in.
“Apart from tourism, Sabah's economy has been predominantly export-oriented and dominated significantly by primary commodities such as agriculture – mainly palm oil, forestry and petroleum.
“Therefore, the Sabah government also plans to diversify industries to open up job opportunities for locals. We expect that the automotive sector will be a new source of revenue.
“The wood processing industry such as sawn timber, plywood and veneer has also been promoted in order to capitalise on the state's advantage with respect to the abundance of natural resources, ” he added in a speech delivered by state Assistant Finance Minister Kenny Chua.
Mohd Shafie said the Sabah agriculture blueprint would also soon be tabled at state Cabinet level, focusing on more downstream activities rather than just raw material production.
He said boosting trade relations between Sabah and Thailand was also in line with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's aspiration to see intra-Asean trade increased among the 10 Asean countries.
He also agreed that the tourism sector was one area in which both countries could develop partnerships, such as hotel construction projects to accommodate the growing number of visitors to Sabah.