Experts urge Thailand to make most of China
Thailand should focus on more bilateral trade and investment with China, especially as it is fast becoming the world's most important market, experts on international economy advised recently.
Speaking at the Thailand-China Business Council seminar on "Looking Global, Looking at Thailand into 2015", Supachai Panitchpakdi said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that Thailand will have with 15 countries, including China, will be key to ensure long-term growth and will drive the global economy. Supachai is secretary-general at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
He said Thailand needed to boost its overseas investments, especially in China, as a strategy to promote business growth. He added that waiting for foreign investment was not efficient for growth, but instead Thailand needed to encourage more enterprises to invest abroad, especially in Asean, China and other Asian markets to make the most of the RCEP integration.
He said investing overseas did not just mean finding new markets but also exchanging technology. In addition, h expressed concerns about the small bubble in Thailand's property market, as it could expand and cause economic problems in the future. He called on relevant agencies to keep an eye on property prices, especially those of condominiums, and closely monitor the granting of loans.
Thanakorn Seriburi, chairman to the Thailand-China Business Council, said the mainland was one of the strongest nations at present and Thailand should not ignore its opportunities. In the past, only small and medium-sized enterprises from China invested in Thailand, but now Chinese investors are more important as they have access to huge capital, technology and expertise. He pointed out that large Chinese enterprises were planning to invest more in Thailand and other Asean nations, focusing on ports and infrastructure development as well as logistics and steel.
He added that a strong currency should not hurt the Thai economy and export as long as it does not fluctuate too much. However, if the baht does appreciate to Bt28 against the greenback, it could hurt Thai export growth and the economy in the long run as Thailand relies on export growth.
China's Ambassador to Thailand Guan Mu said his country would have some changes in policies and development now that the leadership has changed, but reckoned that Beijing would possibly place more emphasis on sustainable development by cooperating with trading partners, particularly Asean countries.
"Since Asean is moving toward the Asean Economic Community [AEC] by 2015 and integrating with six trading partners, the region will play a more significant role as major trading partner with China. Trade and investment between both sides should grow gradually," the ambassador said.
Speaking at the same seminar, Banthoon Lamsam, chief executive officer of Kasikornbank, called on the government to upgrade the country's infrastructure in terms of education, telecom and transportation, as well as laws in preparing to enhance the country's competitiveness.
Banthoon added that the government should focus on establishing a firm financial status, saying problems would not be easy to solve if the country starts overspending.
He cited the United States and the European Union as examples of overspending without being cautious about their financial status.
He pointed out that trade between Thailand, China, Japan and Asean was rising, though neighbouring countries Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam were fast becoming contenders in attracting foreign investment.
He said a change in the management structure in Thailand was essential to serve foreign investment, and Thai businesses should also think about investing outside the country, as it is no longer labour intensive.
He said the Kingdom had learn how to work with foreigners, especially Chinese, and understand their working style. He also said that Thai firms needed to change their mindset and start thinking about re-branding.
Banks can help with business matching, which is a trend for global trade, he added.