14/05/2009 - 00:00

Revitalising trade with Thailand

14/05/2009 - 00:00

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WESTERN Australian companies that trade with Thailand have been buoyed by the news the new government is focused on fixing the country's political problems and social turmoil while enhancing trade relations with Australia.

GRAIN GROWTH: TOM PUDDY SAYS THERE’S ROOM TO GROW WA’S WHEAT EXPORTS TO THAILAND. PHOTO: GRANT CURRALL

WESTERN Australian companies that trade with Thailand have been buoyed by the news the new government is focused on fixing the country's political problems and social turmoil while enhancing trade relations with Australia.

Widely publicised protests and political conflict in Thailand - culminating in hundreds of anti-government protestors delaying Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) delegates from meeting at the East Asia Summit last month - have done nothing for the country's reputation.

But Thailand's importance to Australia as a trading partner is growing as the current chair of Asean seeks a sense of normality under a democratic government, led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva which came to power in December last year.

Thailand is WA's eighth largest merchandise trading partner overall, seventh for exports and fifth for imports, with total trade in 2008 valued at more than $5 billion, up from $3 billion the previous year.

Non-monetary gold dominates both imports and exports to and from Thailand.

Sitting in fifth place for WA exports to Thailand is wheat, valued at $33.5 million in 2008.

Tom Puddy, marketing manager for wheat at Grain Pool, the marketing arm for Australian grains industry organisation Co-operative Bulk Handling, is working to maximise WA's wheat exports to the country.

Mr Puddy explained that while WA currently contributes only 34,000 tonnes of Australia's annual wheat export average of 330,000t to Thailand, there is plenty of opportunity for growth considering the country imports more than 1 million tonnes a year.

"Australia's share is under supplied so I'd like to see that definitely the Australian exports, and particularly Western Australian exports increase," he said.

"I'm focused on taking market share from US-type wheat or Canadian-type wheat and building the Australian profile."

Last week, Thailand's foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, visited Perth for the first time in his new role, highlighting the positive changes occurring in his homeland and meeting with Australian counterpart, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith.

"We, the political masters of Thailand, are now trying to change conservative views of Thailand, that are hundreds of years old," Mr Piromya said.

Pigments and paints fall just outside the top five exports but US-owned company Tronox, which markets the output of its joint-venture TiWest, a Kwinana-based producer of white pigment, is confident Thailand will regain its purchasing power.

Tronox logistics manager Asia Pacific, Alan Bassham believes normal buying patterns will return.

"It's about the fourth biggest country we export to, behind China, India and Korea and we're looking forward to them settling down and getting back into the market," he said.

 

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