Bhutan and Thailand came up with a work plan to collaborate more in the area of promoting export of agriculture products, handicraft, branding of SMEs (e-commerce), and assistance in developing single window during third meeting of the Joint Trade Committee (JTC) held from September 26 to 27 in Thimphu.
The meeting reviewed the decisions taken during the last JTC meeting and discussed on trade and economic aspects of mutual interest to both the countries to further enhance the bilateral relations in trade, investment, and economic cooperation between the two countries.
The objective of the meeting was to reinforce the implementation of the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (TECA) signed between the two countries in November 2013.
Leading the Bhutanese delegation, the economic minister, Loknath Sharma said Thailand is a close friend and neighbor of Bhutan and pledged to carry out all trade and economic activities with happiness although Bhutan is very small in terms of economy and population.
The Thai delegation led by Deputy Minister of Commerce, Thailand, Weerasak Wangsupakijkosol assured to have strong relations in both countries and the meeting would bring mechanism to strengthen the economic relations between Bhutan and Thailand that would result in fruitful conversation.
According to Bhutan’s Domestic and External Trade, 2019, bilateral trade between the two countries has grown steadily over the years with total trade accounting for Nu 1.10bn in 2018, 95% of which accounted for import and export share was only 5%.
The overall trade recorded an increase by 320% in the last 10 years. However, it saw a drop by 14% from Nu 1,262.34mn in 2017.
Thailand was recorded as the sixth largest trading partner of Bhutan last year. In 2018, the trade balance had come down to Nu 997.89mn from Nu 1,228.70mn in 2017.
Bhutan’s export to Thailand has remained confined to a small range of goods that remained dominated by cordyceps sinensis accounting to 97% of total exports to Thailand.
The total exports to Thailand accounted for Nu 52.31mn in 2018, recording an increase by 55% from Nu 33.64mn in 2017.
The main import items were motor vehicles and parts, electronic items, equipment for communication, lights and fittings, furniture, polyethylene and IT accessories..
Bhutan imported goods worth Nu 1,050.20mn that saw a decrease by 16% from Nu 1,262.34mn in 2017. The total imports from Thailand accounts for 1.47% of Bhutan’s total imports in 2018.
The TECA signed between the two countries envisions collaboration in wide range of areas including trade, investment, tourism, construction, health and medical care, education, energy, logistics services, and development of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Ministry of Economic Affairs initiated the first meeting of the JTC in August 2016 in Thimphu.
The year marks the 30th anniversary of Bhutan-Thailand relationships and both the countries have established diplomatic relations since November 14, 1989 following the introduction of Druk Air Flights in 1988.
Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu