General Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Prime Minister of Thailand, delivering his opening address to the 2017 CIBJO Congress.
November 6, 2017
General Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Prime Minister of Thailand, officially opened the 2017 CIBJO Congress, accompanied by Mrs. Apiradi Tantraporn, Thailand’s Minister of Commerce, and Mr. Sontirat Sontijirawong, the country’s Deputy Minister of Commerce.
The congress itself was officially hosted by the Ministry of Commerce, through the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) and the Gem and Jewellery Institute of Thailand (GIT).
In his speech that opened the session, which drew more than 300 participants, including a massive presence of both the foreign and Thai press, CIBJO President Gaetano Cavalieri said that, although the official opening was taken at the mid-point of the 2017 Congress, this was due to the privilege of having the Prime Minister of Thailand and his government’s Minister of Commerce officially open it.
“Here in Thailand, the jewellery industry ranks third nationwide after automobiles and electronics, generating 371 billion baht, or about $10.3 billion in income per annum, with almost 16,000 businesses employing 1.3 million people,” Dr. Cavalieri told the audience. “Coloured gemstones, we have been told at this congress, make up $670 million in revenue, or 12 percent of total world sales.”
“Bangkok’s readiness to host forums like the CIBJO Congress, and what it represents, is a key step in consolidating Thailand’s prominent position in the region and the world, particularly in a market that increasingly is demanding that the products it buys can be clearly shown to have been responsibly handled along the entire chain of distribution, and that purchases of luxury products have social significance as well as monetary value,” he said.
“CIBJO is strongly supportive of the strengthening and growth of the Thai gemstone and jewellery centre, for we believe that it should be a foundation stone of the development of our business in Southeast Asia and beyond. We see no conflict in our working to promote and support national industries, because we believe very strongly in the principle that a rising tide raises all ships,” he added, as he thanked the Prime Minister and members of his government for agreeing to open the 2017 congress.
Thailand’s Prime Minister said it was an honour to welcome CIBJO members and host the 2017 Congress. “This congress is very important for Thailand and serves as an opportunity for the exchange of knowledge and experience, and to promote the Thai gemstone and jewellery industry from the upstream all the way to the downstream sector. There are so many people involved in the industry in my country. This is a skilled workforce and the numbers of workers are continuing to grow. We want to expand and strengthen this industry.”
“We need to take care of the people in the value chain to make sure that nobody is left behind, especially the lower income workers, and we also want to ensure transparency and good governance. Thailand is committed to improving our products and to becoming a global jewellery hub in the next five years, and I hope we can grow stronger together and enable Thailand to secure this vision,” General Chan-o-cha stated.
The Prime Minister said that among Thailand’s advantages were highly skilled cutting and polishing workers, which goes back many generations. “We maintain a contemporary design with a Thai identity, and we have good quality control to ensure quality.”
“The government has passed measures to enable Thailand to stand out as a major power, and the government pledges to support the jewellery industry. There will be tax exemption for certain goods to enable us to develop as a hub, as well as benefits for those using certain machinery. This will help the country to produce higher quality goods. We will strengthen our human resources throughout the pipeline, reduce poverty and bring income to as many workers as possible, and create a more aggressive campaign for our goods at home and abroad, so that tourists feel more confident about the jewellery on offer in Thailand,” the prime minister stated.
Thailand’s Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn told the opening ceremony that one of the objectives of hosting the CIBJO Congress was to help promote the image of Thailand as a hub for the gemstones and jewellery industries in accordance with the government’s development plan, by showing them what the country has to offer.
The official opening session closed with a set of reports by key industry leaders, including Sean Gilbertson, President and CEO of Gemfields, the world’s leading coloured gemstone supplier; Ernest Blom, President of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB); and Stephane Fischler, President of the World Diamond Council and Chairman of the Antwerp World Diamond Council (AWDC).
Mr. Gilbertson spoke of the role of Gemfields’ as the coloured stone industry’s largest gemstone producer, and the challenges and rewards of being a major mining firm. He spoke about the financial payments that his company has paid Zambia ($103 million in eight years, or 21 percent of revenue) from earnings at the Kagem emerald mine; and $73 million to Mozambique in four years, or 26 percent of revenue. He also spoke about Gemfields’ CSR projects in education, agriculture, health and conservation
Mr. Blom’s speech concentrated on the importance and value of the close cooperation between the WFDB and CIBJO. “At the very heart of the WFDB’s work is to protect the interests of our bourses and their individual members,” he explained. “But, just as importantly, we aim to protect the consumer by ensuring that diamonds are traded fairly and honestly. These are not just words, but very real facts. CIBJO carries out a very similar function for jewellery industry members from across the pipeline, boldly setting the agenda for the trade on carbon-free operations and Corporate Social Responsibility, for example, as well as representing the industry at meetings of national and international parliaments, the OECD, the United Nations and other important organisations.”
Mr. Fischler spoke about the WDC’s work in defending the integrity of diamonds through the Kimberley Process. “CIBJO has been at the forefront of responsible practices and consumers have to be confident about their jewellery purchases. We realise that the world is not perfect and there are dangers of diamonds being used to finance terrible atrocities, such as are happening today in the Central African Republic. The WDC focuses on lessening those risks, but we have no power to bring about change or protect people at risk or change legislation. We must have stronger actors in the pipeline and encourage responsible practices. We will continue to ensure that raw materials used in jewellery making will benefit the whole pipeline through sustainable development. More can, and must be done,” he said.