The Nation



Kunming promoted as 'Gateway to Asean'

SUCHART Liengsaengthong, the Thai consul-general in Kunming, urges Thai corporations to invest in the southern Chinese hub, as the Beijing government bills Yunnan province as the gateway to Asean.

He told a briefing last week for Krungthai Bank and Thai media that China is attempting to drive economic growth in the west after development in the country's east has reached a mature level.

Yunnan is in the southwest and Kunming is its commercial city, he said. Kunming's gross domestic product last year grew by 12.4 per cent against China's economic expansion of 7.8 per cent.

Under a 10-year economic development plan, China has attempted to open more markets, allow more foreign capital in and set up more special economic zones.

Yunnan is the largest tobacco and coffee bean producer and the biggest flower auction centre in China. It is the eighth largest coal producer in China. Having economic resources will help this province grow rapidly, he said.

Yunnan is the fourth largest province in China, so China has given importance to this city. Beijing has designated Yunnan as the gateway for trade and investment to Southeast Asia and Thailand is a strategic location for Yunnan in helping to connect to Southeast Asia and Asean, he said.

The central government is promoting Kunming as the logistics hub of Yunnan and also the centre of the financial, capital and insurance markets by pushing the yuan as the main currency for cross-border trade.

China also expects Thailand will have prepared well to conduct trade and investment with businesses in Kunming.

Thai corporations should think seriously about how to become the partner of local corporations in Kunming.

"When we know what China wants, we should speed up negotiations with them to build up mutual interest. Thai state agencies here through Team Thailand are ready to give advice to Thai private firms that want to establish a footprint in Kunming," he said.

Team Thailand consists of the Thai consulate-general in Kunming, the Thai embassy in China, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways International.

Thanop Panyapattanakul, consul of the consulate-general in Kunming, said KTB as a state-run bank should become a member of Team Thailand in the future to help provide financial services to Thai companies.

KTB is the only Thai bank with a branch in Kunming and is also the first foreign bank in Kunming.

Thai direct investment in Yunnan last year reached US$177 million from 160 projects, while bilateral trade fell slightly to $700 million, due to the impact from the global economy. However, cross-border trade showed significant growth.

Thai businesses operating in Kunming remain large, led by CP Group and TCC Group.

CP recently invested in the feed stock business, while TCC has acquired two hotels in preparation to serve the flows of foreign investors planning activities in Kunming.

Few medium-sized corporations from Thailand do business in Kunming. Saha Union is the only one involved in running a power plant through a joint venture.

Food and processed food trading and restaurant and services are business opportunities for Thai companies in Kunming, he added.

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