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Thailand Lobbying To Secure Tuna Supply In The Pacific

Thailand is trying to build links and trade pacts with Pacific nations to feed its growing industrial sector, and to ensure the future supply of tuna raw materials to its canneries.

The Pacific region has always been very essential for Thailand’s tuna canning sector as a supply source, but is now becoming even more important as raw materials around the world become scarce and Asia develops as the engine room of the world economy. Thailand has no large tuna stocks in its waters, and also has no major tuna fleet operating in the Pacific region.

In April, Britain announced plans to renew relations with the Pacific and China has also been spending big in the region to gain influence.

Maris Sangiampongsa is Thailand’s Ambassador for Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji.

He says trade links to Pacific nations are potentially critical for the future of his nation’s economy. Thailand is the world’s leader in tuna processing.

“We need raw materials and energy because Thailand is now in the developing stage,” he said.

“We have a very good position in terms of manufacturing structure good skill level. But we are now looking outside the country for raw materials and energy.”

Mr. Sangiapongsa says in the past year Thailand’s economy has grown by 5%.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra recently returned from a trip to PNG - which has a rich source of raw materials - to discuss increased trade to keep that growth going.

Mr. Sangiampongsa says Vanuatu is also a good source of future trade and cooperation that could benefit both nations.

“The first is agriculture, which includes fisheries and forestry; especially tuna in Vanuatu.”

In order to secure the trade of raw materials Thailand is offering expertise to help Pacific nations develop their own industries and increase factory capacity. Thai Union Frozen will open on June 10th this year a new cannery in Papua New Guinea, which is a joint venture with Frabelle PNG and Century Pacific.

“The Government of Thailand is aiming to give a lot of technical assistance to countries like Vanuatu in order to work together to the benefit of both countries.”

Thailand however is a late developer when compared to other Asian economies.

Economic powerhouses such as China, South Korea and Japan have already made inroads in the Pacific.

And European nations like France and Britain also have firm and long held trade and cultural links to the region.

“But we believe that we have some kind of advantage.” Mr. Sangiapongsa said.

“We have cheap labor to produce cheaper products from Thailand to help us penetrate the market.”