S Australia boosts Thai link

Economy August 24, 2015 01:00


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BILATERAL engagement focusing on exchanges of services and technology in the food, education and tourism industries has the biggest potential to enhance two-way investment and trade between Thailand and South Australia, the premier of the Australian state

Jay Weatherill said Thailand was South Australia’s eight largest two-way trading partner at the end of 2014.

Meanwhile, the state can also provide its expertise in high-speed rail and renewable energy to help the Kingdom fulfil its immediate infrastructure and energy needs.

“The first is food, the second is education and the third is tourism. These would be the three big opportunities in term of current engagement between South Australia and Thailand,” Weatherill said in an exclusive interview with The Nation after his meeting with the newly appointed Transport Minister, Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, on Friday.

The latest connections between South Australia and Thailand via the food processing industry was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Charoen Pokphand Group and Thomas Foods International, he said, and Beston Global Food Company’s decision to open a regional headquarters in Bangkok with an initial investment of A$3 million (Bt78.36) last week.

Thomas Foods International is Australia’s largest family-owned meat-processing company with annual revenue of more than A$1 billion.

“CP has an ambition to explore on-land farming of prawns because of the difficulty of capturing prawns in the natural environment and South Australia has the technology but we do not have the markets or the investment capacity so the latest development is a good sign as it is the sort of a win-win investment that we should be pursuing,” Weatherill said.

Going forward, the growing area of world trade is foods and beverages that have therapeutic benefits and South Australia’s businesses has a fair share of expertise in the eco-friendly production of processed food, which the state could share with food production companies in Thailand, he said.

In terms of education, the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan pilots in Asia, which South Australia universities are participating in, will strengthen the educational ties between South Australia and Thailand both at the individual level and through expanding university, business and other stakeholder links.

More than 5,450 Australian students will live, study and undertake work placements in the Indo-Pacific under the New Colombo Plan 2016 mobility round.

“The Transport Minister was interested in whether we have any technical capacity to assist the ministry in its railway infrastructure expansion and we want to take time to explore that and he also invited us to consider ways to better promote the tertiary institutions and universities in South Australia as we have a fair share of Thai students going to Australia,” he revealed.

He explained that any interest from businesses in the state regarding rail infrastructure would be to provide technical expertise to certain elements such as component manufacturing in the construction of the planned railways as companies in South Australia have manufactured some of the elements in high-speed rail that have been used in Europe.

Thailand’s five-year strategic plan for public-private partnerships covering 65 development projects in 20 categories and worth Bt1.35 trillion is also under the state’s businesses radar.

Renewable energy is another area of exchanges that can be pursued between South Australia and Thailand as 39 per cent of South Australia’s power needs are generated by renewable sources, Weatherill said.

South Australia has the second highest number of wind farms per capita in the world and the state along with its businesses can provide expertise in the renewable energy expenses and low carbon emission sources.

“We also discussed the possibility of direct flights from Thailand to South Australia to assist in the connection between our two regions,” he added.

Direct flights from Bangkok to Adelaide would greatly enhance the Kingdom’s engagement with South Australia in the tourism sector as the only direct flights currently are to other major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.