PRIME MINISTER Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has allayed mounting fears of a monopoly developing following a deal that Chinese online trade giant Alibaba signed with the government earlier this week.
Prayut said he was well aware of the concerns but urged the public to open their minds to accept good benefits from the collaboration, Government spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday. Alibaba Group has committed to invest a total of Bt11 billion in Thailand in a move that Prayut said could benefit the country’s small farmers and rural enterprises due to the firm’s expertise in diverse technology.
Jack Ma, Alibaba’s co-founder and executive chairman, and Thai authorities on Thursday signed four memorandums of understanding (MoUs), marking the start of Alibaba’s significant investment in Thailand’s much-heralded Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) as well as a related “Smart City” project. Other signed agreements involved tourism promotion, digital economy and human resource development programmes.
As part of the collaboration, Alibaba and the Thai Commerce Ministry launched the first official Thai rice flagship store on T-mall, the world’s largest third-party platform for brands and retailers which has access to over 1.4 billion Chinese consumers, besides driving the sale of popular Thai fruits into China.
E-commerce expert Pawoot Pongvitayapanu yesterday welcomed Alibaba’s investment in Thailand but he also suggested that Thai authorities and entrepreneurs adjust their business strategy.
“Thai retail business will totally fall into the hands of foreign businesspeople in the next five to 10 years with huge foreign investments and connectivity to the world via the gradual growth of the Internet,” said Pawoot, who is president of the Thai E-commerce Association, on his Facebook page.
Hence, Thai entrepreneurs and business must adjust themselves to online and expand their businesses to global market, he said.
“You [Thai entrepreneurs] should remind that we are no longer competing with our compatriots,” he said.
As for the government, he said it should push more export of Thai goods to China and delay importing from China through creative means. He added that the government should also find experts on online trade to systematically push for that kind of business.
In response to criticism, Sansern yesterday said the PM had ordered the economic team to balance economic competition.
“While carefully considering the appropriation of benefits for foreign investors, we have to protect Thai investors and SMEs as well,” the government spokesman said.
The premier also suggested that Thai business owners adapt themselves to cope with the competition, viewing it as a challenge rather than an obstacle, Sansern said.