Illegal trade suppresses official trade volume, says commerce minister

Commerce minister Win Myint said the huge volume of illegal trade in Myanmar is responsible for the country’s low trade figures compared to China and Thailand.

The minister spoke at the SME Development and Socio-Economic Life Improvement Meeting on January 20.

“Myanmar is the country with the lowest tax revenue in the region. Our trade volume is also the lowest compared to neighbouring countries. This is because of illegal trade. Much illegal trade takes place at the borders with China and Thailand. Our trade volume is about US$1 billion lower than Thailand’s and over US$1 billion lower than China’s,” said the minister.

Myanmar’s total trade volume in the 2010-2011 fiscal year was $15 billion, and it rose to $25 billion in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. As of the first week of January in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, Myanmar’s trade volume is $21 billion.

However, Myanmar’s import volume is higher than its export volume because many materials needed for foreign investment firms must be imported from foreign countries.

Illegal trade and commodity imports have been seized by the Customs Department, as well as by mobile teams organised by the Ministry of Commerce and related departments along sea routes and border trade routes.

“Illegal trade affects consumer protection, those in the market who operate legally and pay taxes, as well as local SMEs,” said the minister.

Myanmar’s trade deficit before the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year is more than $3.6 billion, which is higher than last year’s deficit, according to the Ministry of Commerce.