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Asean leaders seek to grow from within



A follow-up meeting for the 9thAsean+6 Gems & Jewelry Presidents’ Summit held in mid-July was convened yesterday on strengthening trade ties among Asean and neighbouring countries and regions where are under tremendous pressure amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Virtual exhibitions, breaking trade barriers and joint marketing efforts were generally agreed by the panelists as the measures to survive the unprecedented crisis and to excel together.


Representatives from Thailand, India, China, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Cambodia and Indonesia took turn to address the issues of the impact of the novel coronavirus on their respective jewellery and gemstone industry over the last six months, and how well has the industry been picking up in the last one or two months.


The summit had then put the emphasis on how have the participating associations been working with the government on reducing trade barriers in order to welcome businesses from abroad. In this regard, the representative from the Gem and Jewelry Trade Association of China (GAC)said that since July 2018, the Mainland government reduced the average import tax of gems and jewellery from 30.67% to 9.89%.  To provide foreign business partners with more trading incentives, the China International Consumer Products Expo in Hainan scheduled for March 2021 will offer more favourable tax policies. 


Somchai Phornchindarak, president of the Gems Jewelry and Precious Metal Confederation (GJPCT) of Thailand, said after the drop of import duty for gem and jewellery, the Thai government has exempted the VAT.  “You can import everything into Thailand now,” he said.


William Li, associate chairman (exhibition affairs) of the Hong Kong Jewelry Manufacturers’ Association (HKJMA), said as significant shows including Vicenzaoro and JCK have chosen to go virtual, he hopes the Asean and neighbouring countries can organise virtual and live exhibitions together. However, he expressed his concern over the fact that jewellery, as a high-value goods, cannot be sold as easy as other consumer products. Besides, he wishes show organisers may reduce participation fees which have long been a burden for exhibitors.


The large-scale lockdown brought by Covid-19 is detrimental to Hong Kong’s export-oriented jewellery industry. Ken Lo, chairman of the Hong Kong Jewellery & Jade Manufacturers Association (HKJJA), said: “Hong Kong is an export-oriented city. We need businesses from other countries. As manufacturer and exporters, we have zero income [during the pandemic]. Shows are rescheduled. People are not coming in. There wasn’t any business over the last six months. We are glad to explore business opportunities now.”


He added that western markets can no longer be relied on anymore. “We need to operate what China is operating now. China encourages domestic consumption. Asean countries come together to operate something like China,” he said.


He echoed with William Li’s view on virtual shows. “We cannot judge the value of higher value items over the computer screen.  Physical shows are unavoidable. However, Covid-19 makes it impossible for a while. So we need virtual exhibitions to connect with consumers, retailers, manufacturers and exporters,” he said. 


Dr Aung Kyaw Win, vice president of Myanmar Gems and Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association (MGJEA), said virtual marketing and exhibition is interesting and important. “We need to be more dynamic, creative and innovative to penetrate the global market,” he said. He added that the Burmese jewellery and gem industry is setting up vocational schools and gemmological laboratories which need the help from the Asean and neighbouring countries.


In a bid to catch up with each other on a regular basis, Phornchindarak suggests the summit representatives to meet online every two months.

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