Australia encourages business expansion in Thailand
AUSTRALIA is encouraging its businesses, particularly small firms, to learn more about Thailand and regard it as a new base of investment and a launching pad for Asean markets, notably Myanmar.
Australia Ambassador James Wise said last week that still too few Australian companies have done business and invested in Thailand. However, with the growth of Asia and Thailand, investors should be encouraged to invest and do more business in the country.
Thailand is considered as a hospitable place for Australian businesses. Industries that Australians have eyed are food, agricultural processing, logistics, alternative energy and services, he said.
Since Australian investors had tremendous expertise in those businesses, they believe Thailand could serve as a new base to penetrate the Asian and Asean markets.
The hike in the minimum wage was not a problem for Australian investors as Australian companies focused on high technology. Costs for personnel were on the rise as Thailand has got wealthier.
This was natural for a country that has moved up the value chain. Aussie investors also had to pay a higher cost for skilled labour.
Protests against rising prices for goods and other peaceful rallies were considered as a normal de-|velopment for a democratic country. Such rallies had not concern-|ed Australian investors.
But the biggest challenge for Thailand is how to make Australian entrepreneurs understand better how big and sophisticated its economy is and how it can serve their investment.
To promote more investment and trade with Thailand, the Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce or AustCham Thailand recently hosted the first Australian Business Forum (ABF) in Bangkok. The ABF is a new chamber initiative supported by the Australian government through the Asian Century Business Engagement Plan.
The ABF aims to promote Australian businesses - particularly small to medium-size firms - in Thailand and surrounding markets.
The ABF has received a warm response with more than 70 attendees from leading companies, both Thai and foreign.
AustCham Thailand counts 403 Australian and Thai companies as members.
Last year, Australia's merchandise trade with Thailand was worth A$15 billion (Bt444 billion), while services, both exports and imports, were worth $3.35 billion. The total was $18.4 billion.
Leigh Scott-Kemmis, president of AustCham Thailand, said the ABF was an excellent vehicle to engage the Thai business community and while the focus was be mainly on Australia and Thailand, priority would also be given to markets around Thailand, particularly Myanmar.
AustCham aims to create a close-knit, Australian-related "community of interest". It will be a catalyst for expansion. The ABF will bring together businessmen, whether Australian, Thai or other nationalities, who have an interest in Australian-Thai commerce.
For Myanmar, AustCham will develop business connections and opportunities and will focus on how Thailand can be used as a launching pad into Myanmar. The objective will be to produce an Australia-Myanmar-Thailand "community of interest", he added.
Simon Shale, director of Visy Packaging (Thailand), who shared the company's success in doing business in Thailand to encourage those interested to investing in the country, said that after almost five years here, his company was seriously considering Thailand as the future of Asia.
"Our operation in Thailand has been extraordinarily successful. After investing in some of the most advanced technology in the world, we will be able to produce 120 million plastic food jars annually. The company should see 10-per-cent or double-digit growth each year."
Visy was founded in Melbourne and has grown to become one of the world's leading privately owned packaging, paper and recycling companies, with annual turnover of about $4 billion.