Matching builds on investment push

Economy May 19, 2017 01:00


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REPRESENTATIVES of more than 1,000 companies from around the world came together in a matchmaking event in Bangkok yesterday aimed at boosting opportunities for Thai businesses.

Small and medium-sized businesses were a key focus for the Thailand Cross Border Trade and Investment Conference at BITEC.

“We invited Chinese businessmen to invest in Thailand particularly in the Eastern Economic Corridor, where there will be a regional economic development centre linking to China’s One Belt, One Road initiative,” Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said yesterday, in reference to the scale of Chinese involvement in the event.

He was speaking after opening the Thailand Cross Border Trade and Investment Conference held by the Bank of China and Board of Investment. Somkid was speaking after he opened the matchmaking conference, which was organised by the Board of Investment, Bank of China and SME Bank.

 The event comes amid a series of efforts to promote more trade and investment into Thailand, with Chinese firms especially in the frame for investment in the 10 targeted industries that the government is promoting under its Thailand 4.0 policy for technological development.

Since 2011, China has been Thailand’s largest trading partner and its biggest source of imports. 

Last year, China was the second largest investor in Thailand with 81 projects worth Bt52.7 billion.

Hiranya Sujinai, secretary-general of BoI, said most Chinese investors were interested in the government’s preparations for utility system development.

The BoI has also been active in promoting Japanese investment. The BoI’s office in Osaka has led about 100 Japanese investors from industries ranging from solar cell and transport to participate in business matching and investment networks.

The Japanese investors have undertaken field surveys in the Eastern region and were particularly interested in the EEC, given its prime location as promoted by the government, she said. Last year, Japanese investors applied for privileges from the BoI for 264 projects worth Bt57.47 billion.

The Commerce Ministry yesterday expressed confidence that prospects for trade with the United States remain bright after recent discussions with a US trade representative, who urged local firms to invest more in petroleum and natural gas in the US.

Wiboonlasana Ruamraksa, the permanent-secretary of the Commerce Ministry, referring to talks with Diane Farrell, deputy assistant secretary for Asia at the US Commerce Department, said the US reiterated that it would continue to place importance on its trade and investment relationship with Thailand. 

Farrell, in encouraging Thai investment in the US petroleum and natural gas sector, said this industry was undergoing rapid expansion. 

Also discussed was an executive order from President Donald Trump for an investigation into the US trade deficit with a range of countries, including Thailand.

Thailand highlighted its significant progress in trade-related issues under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Joint Council, Wiboonlasana said. 

These issues extended from Customs issues to intellectual property regulations, particularly relating to application for membership of the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Wipo Copyright Treaty – an agreement dealing with the protection of works and the rights of their authors in the digital environment.

Wiboonlasana said Thailand had resolved a number of areas for the Americans, especially on intellectual property.

The Intellectual Property Department will hold technical discussions with the US Trade Representative’s Office through a video conference today. 

Positive discussions could lead to an upgrading of Thailand, which has been on the US Priority Watch List for 11 years. Listed are those countries deemed to have been failing to protect IP rights.

The US is Thailand’s third largest trading country. Last year, Thai-US trade totalled US$36.55 billion, down 3.6 per cent from a year before. Exports to the US, Thailand’s largest export destination, rose 1.8 per cent to $24.5 billion.

Thai imports from the US, Thailand’s third largest source of imports after China and Japan, amounted to $12.06 billion, down 13 per cent from the previous year. 

Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Board of Trade of Thailand and the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the private sector was becoming more confident in the investment outlook due to positive signs emerging from a range of investment promotions and easing concerns over external factors like the US trade policy.