Speech by His Excellency Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra Prime Minister of Thailand at the Opening Ceremony of the 34th Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair
Sunday， 12 September 2004
Minister Watana，Distinguished Guests， Ladies and Gentlemen，
It is a pleasure for me to be here with you today to witness the opening of the Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair， an event that represents one of the finest achievements of Thailand's gem and jewelry industry. Over the years， the Fair has grown at an amazing rate， from a small， relatively unknown exhibition， to the world-class event that it is today.
As some of you may know， Thailand has a long history relating to gems and jewelry， starting hundreds of years ago when our ancestors mined rubies and sapphires in areas such as Chantaburi and Kanchanaburi. Once the stones were mined， craftsmen began fashioning the gems and developing their cutting skills. Craftsmanship was already an inherent part of Thai culture， so perfecting these skills came naturally to them. It was the same for jewelry manufacturers whose skills grew out of carving， weaving， and other arts already well-advanced in Thailand.
I believe that the combination of our natural resources and history of fine craftsmanship gave us a distinct advantage over other countries in the world in the gem and jewelry industry. Therefore， nowadays， it is no surprise that Thailand is often referred to as the gem and jewelry center of the world. You will find that gemstones that are mined in other parts of the world， often pass through Bangkok in either the cutting or trading process. Jewelry manufactured in Thailand are sold as brand name products to some of the biggest names in the industry. And we now see many Thai companies able to create and promote their very own brand of jewelry with a high degree of success.
The Thai people have watched over the years as the gem and jewelry industry has grown from its early beginnings， to becoming an important part of the nation's economy. The industry has provided， not just added income for the country， but also employment for over 1.2 million people along with abundant opportunities for training and education. It is the people involved in an industry that are always a vital part of any achievement， since a motivated and skilled labor force is one of the industry's major strengths. This， in turn， is a major strength and asset for the entire nation.
Ladies and Gentlemen，
The Thai Government has noted with great interest the continuous development of product design， technology， and increased marketing endeavors put forth by members of the gem and jewelry industry. Your unwavering commitment to excellence is something to be proud of， and we will continue to offer our support in any way we can.
You can see the Administration's commitment to the industry through government intervention in the area of VAT exemption on the importation of many products used in jewelry manufacturing. Most recently， such commitment can also be found in our efforts to negotiate Free Trade Agreements with other countries. In July of this year， I traveled to Canberra， Australia with our Minister of Commerce and other government officials for the signing of an FTA with Australia. We are currently implementing Early Harvest arrangements with China and India， and are now in the negotiating process for FTAs with many other countries such as Japan and the US. These agreements will undoubtedly have a direct effect on the gem and jewelry industry， facilitating trade and opening up new markets with our partners around the world.
The Government estimates that the gem and jewelry industry will reach an export sales volume of 5 billion US dollars within the next five years. We are confident that this is a realistic goal after watching the industry's growth and noting the accomplishments of our manufacturers and traders alike. Thai gems and jewelry have been widely accepted in the international marketplace and are found in virtually every corner of the world. This is an accomplishment that we should all be proud of.
The Department of Export Promotion， working under the Ministry of Commerce， has worked on a variety of initiatives for promoting trade between Thailand and the rest of the world. One strategy has been the launch of Thailand Marketplace， a program designed to increase awareness of Thai products around the world by establishing trading centers called “Thailand Plaza”。 These have been set up in collaboration with country partners who promote Thai products. Our aim is to open plazas in prime locations， such as the one currently open on 5th Avenue in New York City. We are confident that we can generate a greater interest in Thai products once the world market has the opportunity to see the quality and design we are capable of producing. Of one thing I am sure， our designs and manufacturing capabilities are on a par with， or exceed， international standards. In terms of quality and value， they are second to none.
Ladies and Gentlemen，
Thailand's image around the world continues to grow as we have been the host of several world events， such as last year's APEC meetings and this year's International Conference on HIV and AIDS. We are poised and ready to receive visitors at both the governmental and private sector level. Our infrastructure， including transportation and technology， are on a par with any major city in the world. So we are well-prepared to host an international gem and jewelry fair of this caliber， and I am confident that you will be pleased with your time spent in this country.
I congratulate the Department of Export Promotion， Ministry of Commerce， and the Thai Gem and Jewelry Traders Association on their continuous efforts to develop the gem and jewelry industry as well as the excellent cooperation they render to one another. It is through unity and perseverance that this industry will continue on its steady course.
On behalf of the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand， I wish you the best of success here at the 34th Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair.