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Expressway to boost China-Thailand trade in 2011

Source:   Time:

The Kunming-Bangkok expressway is expected to double trade between China and Thailand. Our correspondent Tony Cheng takes a look at how economic ties will be strengthened after the expressway is completed.

It may not look like much, but this ferry is part of the new expressway between Kunming and Bangkok, the first section of the Asian Highway.

Construction has already started on a bridge that will speed up the river crossing, and Thai customs officials are busy with a steady stream of exports flooding across the Mekong.

But ASEAN connectivity is still in its infancy, as many parts of this ambitious road scheme are undergoing construction and the highway has yet to hit its full potential.

Professor Sompop Manarungsan, Panyapiwat Institute of Technology said "The heavy traffic at the mouth of the Chao Phraya river is where the majority of Chinese imports arrive…"

Huge cranes waiting to offload containers that have been shipped down the coast and across the South China Sea.

Where those road links have made a huge difference is in the import of fruit and vegetables.

Bangkok has become a hub for distributors sending Chinese produce all across South East Asia.

In some cases, produce from Yunnan is even re-exported to China because of Thailand's cheaper air freight costs.

And greater transport links are planned.

Tentative agreements have been signed for a high speed rail link from China, through Thailand to Singapore.

With strong links by road, rail, sea and air, Thailand seems destined to become a hub for Chinese products.

And last week the announcement of a huge wholesale market in Bangkok, the China City Mall.

Within two years this will be a huge center for buyers all around the world to purchase Chinese productsbut all based in Thailand.

And analysts see that while manufacturing might move elsewhere, Thailand's strong infrastructure will keep it at the center of trade between China and ASEAN.

The Mekong river has long seen a flow of traders working their way between China and South East Asia but the improved road and rail links could see a new dawn in links within the ASEAN trading community.

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