PETALING JAYA: Bolstering border connectivity between Thailand and Malaysia will be a vital component of growth in the region, says the kingdom’s top diplomat here.
Thai Ambassador Narong Sasitorn lamented that although both countries had put it on top of their bilateral agenda, not much progress has been made.
“Connectivity is a key growth engine in the Asean region, where Malaysia and Thailand have a strategic role to play.
“We are the second and third largest economies (in the region). Our countries are located right in the middle where mainland and maritime Asean meet. Our bilateral trade make up almost 40% of the total intra-Asean trade.
“What our countries need is a ‘shared vision’ to achieve this common goal of shared prosperity, ” he said during an Asean Roundtable discussion held by the CIMB Asean Research Institute (CARI) at the embassy here on Tuesday.
Narong said it was especially crucial for Asean to boost ties among its members given the current uncertainties caused by the US-China trade war and the Covid-19 outbreak.
Former Thai Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said closer cooperation between Malaysia-Thailand would have huge implications for regional trade, logistics and investment.
He added that Thailand has been upgrading its transport infrastructure, including a double-track railway which runs through south Thailand to Malaysia.
Such a transport network, he added, could afford Malaysian businesses opportunities to tap into growing markets in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and China’s inland region.
“Improved physical and institutional connectivity between Malaysia and Thailand does not only improve the efficiency of logistics and trade flow between the two countries, it would also stimulate even more investment and economic dynamism along the integrated belt of regional supply chain, ” he said.
Connectivity projects, he added, such as the long-overdue construction projects of two bridges at the Golok river, and the Cross Border Transport Agreement, should be given priority.
Other speakers at the discussion were former International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, who is chairman of the Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit (Teraju), and CARI chairman and Asean Business Club president Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid.
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