Slow process towards AEC concerns foreign chambers

business March 04, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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The Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand urged Thailand to sort out the political impasse as soon as possible, in light of the long must-do list ahead of the launch of Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.

In a statement, it encourage the speedy resolution of the political problems so that the government can complete the necessary regulatory and process changes to enable the AEC agreements to operate and to allow all organisations in Thailand, and Thai citizens to gain the benefits that the AEC offers. 
"If this work is not completed, the JFCCT believes there is a real and significant danger that Thailand will fall behind its neighbours in many areas," it said.
JFCCT is the umbrella organisation coving some 29 foreign chambers of commerce and business associations in Thailand with over 8,000 member firms. 
Noting that it has no involvement in Thai politics, as a stakeholder it was deeply concerned with the present divide and situation. 
"A number of specific changes to laws and procedures are required to ensure smooth implementation and to allow Thai companies and citizens to obtain the benefits envisioned. The current political situation, unclear outcome of elections, uncertainty of government functions and control issues raise significant concern in terms of decision making and implementation capabilities. Some changes will require a functioning parliament."
It reckoned that there are uncertainties involving the AEC and many members have indicated they are looking at alternatives in the region.
For example, to allow the labour changes to work, the Thai labour law needs amendment. A sitting parliament needs to do this. To allow the services changes involving ASEAN national foreign ownership of up to 70%, the Foreign Business Act and some other procedures need to be changed. Other changes needed include a large effort to harmonize the many varied definitions, standards and procedures. These include labelling, university qualifications, taxes, and customs practices. The ministers of multiple departments and staff from many ministries need to agree and implement these.
Without a clear and cohesive plan or strategy for finishing the AEC efforts or for communicating the opportunities to Thai citizens and companies. There is much detailed work to be completed, and the JFCCT urges all of the Thai government to work with the various stakeholders to make the strategic decisions and develop a detailed plan.
The JFCCT believes that the opportunities and benefits presented from the AEC are enormous for Thailand and its citizens, but the current political environment allows other countries to move ahead and forces some investors to look towards these other countries as preferred investment and management bases in the region.
"Thailand is losing out and is likely to be left behind or taken over in the competition for foreign investment, technology advances and securing of energy supplies."