Thai enterprises have been advised to devise strategies and business plans to take advantage of China's concerted push to secure more investment overseas - with Asean a major target.
That was the verdict at a Thailand-China Business Council (TCBC) seminar that examined Chinese President Xi Jinping’s latest economic policy.
The seminar heard that China will become the world’s largest economy in the next five to 10 years and Thailand should not hesitate to form closer ties with that country if it didn’t want to lose a competitiveness edge to other Asean countries.
“China has a policy to strengthen cooperation with Asean through its southern part,” said Vikrom Kromadit, vice chairman of the TCBC.
“Thailand, which has many advantages by being a strategic location, should look for opportunities to draw investments from China in many sectors including trade in goods, manufacturing, agri-industry, and services.”
Vikrom is concerned that the current political conflict in Thailand could do long-term damage to foreign investor and trader confidence.
Xi has a policy to encourage more than a million Chinese enterprises to invest overseas, focusing on Asean.
China has the world’s highest international reserves, worth US$3.9 trillion (Bt137 trillion), and high capacity to invest in various sectors, while its government fully supports the country’s banking and finance sectors to promote more trade and investment overseas.
Kraisin Vongsurakrai, secretary-general of the council, said many Thai sectors had high potential to trade with China, including auto parts, as China had more than 100 million cars.
He said the sale and manufacture of food and products to serve China’s rising elderly population also had great potential.
China-Asean bilateral trade projects are projected to reach $1 trillion by 2020, from $400 billion now. Thus China and Asean countries would have stringent measures to promote more trade between both sides, Kraisin said.
Manop Sangiambut, deputy secretary-general of the TCBC and executive vice president of Siam Commercial Bank, said the Chinese president had clearly announced that his country would reduce the complexity of doing business. He said this would make it easier for Thai investors to learn more about new practical norms for doing business in China.
He also noted that China had recently changed its financial structure, which would encourage more Chinese enterprises to invest overseas. Thailand should grasp this opportunity to forge closer ties with Chinese traders and investors.
Anek Srichivachart, vice chairman of the council and president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), expressed concerns about Thailand’s political mess as it had continued to damage foreign confidence, particularly among tourists. Fewer foreigners would come to Thailand as a result.
Anek said China was Thailand’s biggest source market for visitors but its tourists were very sensitive about political factors and a large number were avoiding Thailand. The tourism sector would be hit hardest by the political turbulence and would not easily recover in the short term.
He called on all sides in the conflict to negotiate a solution for the country’s sake.
According to the ATTA, the number of Chinese travellers to Thailand dropped 41.99 per cent in March to 79,453 people. Normally, 300,000-400,000 Chinese tourists visited Thailand each month, it said.