Friday, November 14, 2014

China to sign trade deals worth US$8 billion with Myanmar

Premier Li Keqiang speaking in Myanmar on Friday

China will sign more than 20 trade deals worth more than US$8 billion with Myanmar on Friday, Premier Li Keqiang said.

The trade deals included a US$200 million microcredit loan for Myanmar to combat poverty and an agreement to import 100,000 tonness of rice to China, even though China produces enough rice for itself, he said.

“Although China has a sufficient supply of rice, in consideration of the [economic] needs of Myanmar, we will import 100,000 tonnes of Myanmese rice,” he said.

Between 3,000 and 3,500 tonnes of rice used to cross the border illegally each day, the Myanmar Times reported in February, because Myanmar traders could make more money selling to Chinese traders, who then smuggled the food into Yunnan.

But the authorities began clamping down on the illegal trade this year because there was no rice trading agreement between the countries.

China would also expand a scholarship that would let 100 students study in China from next year, he said .

Li wrapped up his half-day official visit to Myanmar on Friday afternoon. He arrived on Wednesday for a series of meetings with leaders in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the East Asia Summit.

“More than 20 years ago, I paid a visit to Myanmar as a young person and met many people of different age groups. It left a strong memory, and made me feel the particular friendship between Myanmar and China,” he said, using a Myanmar word often used to familiarly describe Sino-Myanmese relations.

He said his short trip barred him from meeting leaders of different political parties and sectors in the country, but he would like to meet them in the future.

A senior official at opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy said Suu Kyi would visit China next month, but she later said the trip had not been confirmed.

China, a major investor in Myanmar, has been stung by criticism that it is only interested in the country for its natural resources and that its investment has come at a huge cost.

In 2011, Thein Sein suspended the US$3.6 billion, Chinese-led Myitsone dam project, some 90 per cent of whose power would have gone to China.

“We hope these deals will materialise and … improve the livelihoods of the people of Myanmar,” Li added.

Thailand. Ministry plans 2m-tonne rice deal with China

Thailand plans to sell a further 2 million tonnes of rice to China under a government-to-government contract after the delivery of an existing order for 1 million tonnes to that country is completed next year.

Commerce Minister General Chatchai Sarikulya said his ministry would discuss the new G2G rice contract with the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO), a state agency for oil, rice and foodstuff imports, with a view to further sales.

"The country will accelerate shipments of the existing order for 1 million tonnes. We will sell another 2 million tonnes to China after completion of the 1-million-tonne shipment," he said.

Thailand so far has shipped 300,000 of the 1 million tonnes under the existing contract, and is scheduled to ship the rest by next July. Chatchai said that for the remaining 700,000 tonnes, the government would encourage China to import jasmine rice, as it has more added value.

China is one of the largest import markets for Thai rice, with jasmine rice picking up interest among consumers.

During a trip to Thailand by COFCO officials this week, the delegation will be taken on a tour of rice and jasmine-rice fields and witness the production process from milling to packaging, in order to gain confidence in Thai products. Also, the ministry's Foreign Trade Department will demonstrate the DNA inspection process to the visitors.

To promote Thai rice in China, the Commerce Ministry will launch a series of activities including a cooking pavilion at a Chinese supermarket to raise awareness of Thai products.

With closer cooperation between Thai and China agencies, it is hoped that Chinese consumers will develop a preference for Thai rice.

Moreover, Thailand will work closely with Chinese importers to tackle the problem of lower-quality grains being mixed with Thai rice. The ministry will insist on the display of the Thai rice-certification logo to ensure that all Thai rice sold in China is pure. Any rice trader found mixing Thai rice with other products will be subject to punishment for breaching Thai intellectual-property rights.

The ministry will encourage Thai rice exporters to use the certification logo for jasmine rice to boost the confidence of buyers.

China imports about 4 million tonnes of rice each year, mainly from Vietnam and Thailand.