SIAM CEMENT Group (SCG) will import 155,000 tonnes of US coal for its cement factories in Thailand and other Asean countries while cutting back on Indonesian coal, said Kalin Sarasin, a senior SCG executive and chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade.
The multimillion-baht deal was signed during Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's official visit to the US this week during which he met President Donald Trump at the White House. Kalin said American coal was of good quality while the transport cost was manageable compared with that for coal from other sources, such as Indonesia and Australia.
During his US visit, Prayut urged Thai and US companies to work together in the energy, food and automotive sectors, where both countries have strong business potential.
Kalin said SCG will buy 100,000 tonnes of US coal in the first contract, while the second contract will be for a further 55,000 tonnes to test the quality, after which the firm will consider buying more if the fuel is deemed suitable for its plants in Thailand and other Asean countries.
The US coal will be a substitute for some of the Indonesian supply, which has been imported due to a higher demand for coal for power generation.
At present, SCG mainly imports coal from Indonesia and Australia for a combined six million tonnes annually, so it has to diversify the sources of energy.
SCG also has cement plants in Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia that need coal for their production processes. The first shipment of US coal, which has a higher heat value but less sulphur, is due to arrive in Thailand around April next year.
Isara Vongkusolkit, chairman of Mitr Phol Group, said Thai companies now have operations in a number of countries, so they can use imported raw materials or fuels in multiple locations besides Thailand, depending on the logistics and other costs.
Kalin said Thai and US officials want to boost bilateral trade and investment so there will be a memorandum of understanding to promote more cooperation in the food, energy and automotive sectors.
Prayut said the private sector is the driver of economic growth, with the government playing the role of facilitator. It stands ready to consider proposals from Thai and US companies to help boost bilateral trade and investment.
Meanwhile, a Uber executive met with Prayut during his official visit at the US-Asean Business Council event on Tuesday.
Justin Kintz, Uber’s senior director of policy and communications, said ride-sharing was a champion of start-ups in Thailand while Uber has clearly shown its intention to be part of the driving force.
Governments around Asia are increasingly embracing ride-sharing because they can see the benefits it brings for passengers, drivers and cities, he added.
“There are plenty of examples of countries that have successfully regulated ride-sharing, and we look forward to Thailand being counted among them,” Kintz said.
Uber’s service in Thailand has caused a dispute between registered taxi drivers and Uber drivers because there is no law to regulate a ride-sharing service. The Department of Land Transport ordered a feasibility study into the legalisation of such services in Thailand.
Last week, Uber also launched a new effort, using the right under section 133 of the 2017 Constitution, which requires 10,000 Thai citizens to sign a petition in order to suggest proposed amendments or new laws to the National Assembly.
Uber is asking for an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act B.E. 2522 (1979) that would allow ride-sharing for public and private vehicles via smartphone applications.