THE FORMER HEAD of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), Supachai Panitchpakdi, has suggested that Thailand promote more overseas investment, trade more with emerging markets, and urgently
Speaking at an event marking the 94th anniversary of the Commerce Ministry, Supachai said the world economy would continue to grow slowly this year and next, at only 1-2 per cent per annum, held back by the EU and the United States.
As for Thailand, although the government has attempted to stimulate economic growth, the measures have come quite late to bolster gross domestic product much this year. But GDP should grow by more than 5 per cent next year, thanks to the acceleration of state spending, more investment abroad, and increased trade in the Asean region.
He said Thailand should no longer rely only on exports, but needed to encourage more investment overseas, particularly in the EU. Because of its sluggish economy, many European industries will be up for sale, and Thai investors should take this opportunity to start businesses there.
Businesses in which Thailand has potential to invest overseas are food, energy, automobiles, steel, machinery production, and sectors with highly sophisticated technology.
He also urged the government to pay more attention to the fact that many Thai workers have low skills. He called for the development of the education system, while urging private enterprises offer higher incomes for vocational students.
To cope with instability both domestically and overseas, Supachai suggested that Thailand focus on four areas.
First is to increase infrastructure development and linkages with other Asean countries. Border checkpoints should be upgraded with this in mind.
Second is to focus more on trade with emerging countries, and increase investment overseas.
Third is to develop a sustainable trading system. He noted that many Thai industries had not developed for several years, while other countries had adopted higher technology.
He urged every government agency as well as the private sector to follow global trends, such as concerns on environmental standards, social responsibility, and corporate governance.
Finally, he urged Thailand to increase its bargaining power by tightening cooperation with Asean, and supporting the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
He said the WTO might have less influence on global trading in the near future after it had faced difficulties in its efforts to liberalise the global market, while many bilateral trade pacts had been created.
The US and the EU are negotiating a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to increase their bargaining power, which focuses on new trade rules and regulations, while the US is pushing for a Trans-Pacific Partnership with other nine 11 other countries. Thailand, thus, needs to increase its bargaining power by forging closer ties with Asian countries, he said.