A business survey by the Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce showed that more than two-thirds of its members were planning to increase their investment in the region, with Thailand ranked highest for growth opportunities ahead of India, Australia, Vietnam
According to the business survey – the first of its kind by AustCham – some 67 per cent of respondents expect to increase their investment in Thailand over the next two years, with 74 per cent anticipating an increase over five years.
Thailand was also rated as having the greatest prospects for growth (61 per cent) in the region, ahead of India (55 per cent) and Australia (48 per cent).
AustCham’s business survey gauged about a third of its 299 members’ views on the key issues and characteristics of doing business in Thailand.
Relations between the two countries are increasing: Bilateral trade more than doubled over the past decade from $9.6 billion in 2005 to $19.1 billion in 2014. Major Australian exports to Thailand include crude petroleum, oil and wheat, while Thailand exports to Australia include vehicles and steel and rubber products.
The business survey underscored the success of the bilateral relationship, with 42 per cent of respondents reporting increased profitability for their company in 2015 compared with a year earlier.
Brenton Mauriello, president of AustCham Thailand, said that generally, AustCham members were cautiously optimistic about the short-to-medium-term business outlook in Thailand, with many reporting improved financial results last year amid a period of political instability.
"Considering the survey was conducted during the Bangkok bombing period, it bodes very well that two-thirds of our members are planning to increase their investment – and underscores the strength of the long-term partnerships that have developed between the Australian and Thai business communities since diplomatic ties began some 60 years ago."
Still, AustCham members’ optimism was tempered by political instability, with 55 per cent of respondents citing it as their main concern. Some 70 per cent also ranked difficulty in processing work permits and visas as moderately to extremely important, consuming a significant amount of time and limiting the growth of small to medium-sized business enterprises.
"Visas and work permits are a particular issue where the AustCham board of directors are advocating for change," Mauriello said. "Making these processes simpler will enable significant efficiency gains, assist both new and established businesses and ultimately facilitate the growth of a productive economy."
Mauriello pointed to Australian companies’ strength in education and training, as well as services innovation, as potentially playing larger roles, particularly as local firms target innovation, training and infrastructure as keys to unlocking Thailand’s economy.
"Australian expats and businesses remain staunch investors in Thailand and have much to offer as the country undergoes political and economic challenges. Our role at AustCham is to facilitate the growth in bilateral relations by helping to resolve some of the challenges that the survey highlighted," he said.