Many workers in the agro-industrial, garment, fishery and mining industries could lose their jobs once the Asean Economic Community (AEC) comes into existence by 2015, as investment is likely to shift to countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Vietnam.

Some jobs at risk, post-AEC

These neighbouring countries are rich in natural resources and have lower labour costs, which would encourage Thai and foreign businesses to invest there rather than stay in the Kingdom.

These are the findings of a survey by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.

“Although Thai exports will grow significantly after integration, some industries will be at risk of being affected because investors are likely to move to other countries,” said Aat Pisanwanich, director of the university’s Centre for International Trade Studies.

Businesses most likely to be moved will be those that are labour-intensive and where the cost of raw materials is low. Aat said the first-tier businesses of those risky industries would be the first to be affected because they can be easily moved abroad due to the need for low-technology development.

To ensure Thai labour remains competitive, Aat said the government must accelerate the education of people to recognise the pros and cons of economic integration.

Chainant Ukosakul, vice chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce’s committee on trade rules and international trade, said the government must also prepare for the raising of non-tariff barriers among Asean member states.

Some countries will take steps to protect their industries from liberalisation, in particular agricultural and agro-industrial businesses.

For instance, Indonesia could ban imports of halal food from Thailand, claiming halal food production here was not in accordance with Islamic regulations.

The study found that exports from Thailand to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei would grow significantly after import tariffs for almost 100 per cent of trade in goods among these countries are cut to zero. Products that will enjoy higher export growth are electronic goods, electrical appliances, automobiles and parts, chemical ducts, petroleum and processed foods.

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