BRITAIN is keen to forge closer economic and trade collaboration with more countries beyond the European trade bloc that it is leaving and Thailand is particularly attractive as the centre of the Asean region, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said yesterday after meeting British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.
Fox arrived in Thailand on Wednesday on a visit aimed at boosting trade relations between the two countries.
In the meeting yesterday, Somkid told Fox that he wants the UK to invest more in Thailand in those areas where British investors have expertise, such as the services sector, software, and the development of educational institutions in Thailand.
British investors were invited to invest in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), which covers the provinces of Chachoengsao, Chon Buri and Rayong, he said.
The UK sent a clear signal that it needs to seek alliances in many areas after it leaves the European Union, said Somkid, adding that Fox told him that the UK economy has improved.
His visit to Thailand is aimed at further strengthening bilateral ties with Thailand and the trade and investment flows between the two countries – under the shadow of Brexit, a process that is resetting Britain’s international outlook.
Somkid said he would lead the ministers at the helms of the commerce, digital economy and society, and education ministries – as well as leading business figures – on a delegation to the UK in the near future.
Thailand is the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia and bilateral trade with the UK increased by 2.8 per cent to 5.6 billion euros (Bt246 billion) in 2015-16. Machinery, vehicles and mechanical appliances account for the bulk of Britain’s exports to Thailand.
On Wednesday, Fox met Digital Economy and Society Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj and they discussed possible collaboration to develop human resources in the digital sector.
The British minister also had talks with Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong.
The first UK trade minister to visit Thailand in 15 years, Fox was expected to raise the subject of the national election that has been promised for Thailand by early next year.
“The UK’s trade with Thailand is growing steadily, but there is still huge untapped demand for British goods and services across the Thai economy, which is growing strongly and has a large middle class,” Fox said in a press statement.
“The IMF (International Monetary Fund) predicts 90 per cent of global growth in the coming years will come from outside the EU, and this government is putting the UK in a position to benefit, particularly by boosting export finance and showcasing British companies to the Asian market.”
Thailand is implementing its Thailand 4.0 industrial strategy, with an emphasis on moving towards a digital economy, from initiatives such as rolling out high-speed Internet access for all villages to setting up a Big Data analytics centre. Fox will highlight how the UK’s world-class digital sector can support this strategy.
The trade minister’s arrival follows a recent visit by representatives of Thai digital technology companies to the UK.
On his trip, Fox will also promote the capability of UK companies in areas such as financial services, and transport, the statement said.