The latest survey by the Center for International Trade Studies of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) indicated that only 8 per cent of Thai small- and medium-sized entreprises (SMEs) have adjusted and prepared for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) which takes effect in 2015.
Centre director Aat Pisanwanich said the opinion poll on 'How Thai SMEs Adjust for the AEC' was conducted among 1,000 entrepreneurs nationwide in 19 agricultural and industrial businesses.
One in three, or 32 per cent of the entrepreneurs have adjustments in process, while 60 per cent said they have not started preparing for the new business climate that will come with the AEC.
All the surveyed entrepreneurs in the leather trade said they have not adjusted in any way, while 88 per cent of wood entrepreneurs, and 86 per cent of ceramics and rice trade SMEs indicated likewise.
All are waiting for clear government guidelines on how it will support small companies. They said they want more information on the AEC, and wish the government to set up a fund for SMEs in order to prepare for the ASEAN Economic Community.
Meanwhile, SME exporters want the government to find market channels for them, and to organise seminars on AEC. They also want the government to look after related production costs, improve labour effectiveness, find sources of low interest or interest-free funds, as well as reduce processes for export.
Mr Aat said Thai entrepreneurs' awareness of AEC is quite low. As the community will take effect in two years, Thai SMEs should have adjusted over halfway already.
He said Thai SMEs need marketing strategies. Thai goods needs to be developed and standardised, while websites for businesses should be offered in ASEAN languages.
The Center for International Trade Studies director also advised Thai SMEs to find allies in the ASEAN countries in order to expand their businesses and find more market channels in those countries, which will be a challenging adjustment for Thai entrepreneurs to compete in the AEC.
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