Myanmar to accept Thai baht for border trade, eyes using rupee

Thai baht notes are seen at a Kasikornbank in Bangkok
Thai baht notes are seen at a Kasikornbank in Bangkok, Thailand, May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

March 15 (Reuters) - Myanmar will start accepting the Thai baht currency for settling border trade transactions and is also looking at a similar plan to use the Indian rupee for such trade, the ministries of information and investment said on Tuesday.

Myanmar's military-controlled government has already said it would also accept China's renminbi as an official settlement currency. read more

"By reducing dependence on the U.S. dollar, we will mitigate the risk of sudden exchange rate swings due to external geopolitical factors," the ministries said in a statement, adding the move would help reduce inflation caused by appreciation of the dollar.

The arrangements would also help support economic recovery, the statement said, adding that – even with rising energy prices – Myanmar should record "modest" gross domestic product growth in the fiscal year ending October 2022.

Myanmar's economy has slumped since the army overthrew an elected government a year ago and launched a bloody crackdown on opponents, with a struggle to impose order amid widespread civil unrest and armed resistance from pro-democracy militias and ethnic minority rebels.

Last year, the Central Bank of Myanmar briefly tried tethering the kyat currency to a reference rate against the dollar after a slump in the exchange rate.

The statement accused opponents of trying to trigger distrust in the banking and financial system and said a weaker kyat last year was "stoked by economic sabotage".

Registered merchants along the Thai border with Myanmar could from this month conduct trade based on the kyat-baht exchange rate announced daily by Myanmar's central bank, said the statement.

Thai deputy spokeswoman Ratchada Thanadirek said the government was not involved in the arrangements, but said "usage of baht-kyat is something that two sides have been discussing... and matched demand from the Thai private sector."

However, Sobkasem Ngaemngam of the Tak province chapter of the Federation of Thai Industry, said the move was unlikely to change much since businesses on both sides of the border had been using baht in trade for decades. Tak province borders Myanmar.

Indian authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thailand is Myanmar's second biggest trading partner behind China. Trade in the 2020-2021 fiscal year was worth $5.3 billion, the statement said.

Myanmar's main exports included gas, metals, pulses, and garments, it said, adding the country mainly imported machinery, transport equipment and manufactured goods from Thailand.

Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Martin Petty

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