Brief report: Meeting with the Thai Minister of Commerce

On Thursday November 5, in his dual capacity as Commercial Counsel and Counselor of the Spanish Thai Chamber of Commerce, Mr. LUIS LOPEZ participated with some 25 other representatives of the Chambers in the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand – JFCCT – in a meeting with the Minister of Commerce.  The aim was to convey to him the concerns of this rather representative part of foreign businesses and also convey proposals to address the serious situation of the Thai economy and the decline in Thailand’s attractiveness as a destination for international investment.

The three central themes of the meeting were

1.- Thailand’s Free Trade Agreements.  The JFCCT supports the conclusion of ALCs.  The Minister indicated that RCEP will be signed son.  That they are considering advancing the Agreements with the EU, EFTA, Canada and the United Kingdom. That Parliament is looking at the possible interest in the CPTPP for next year, depending on the US position.  With regard to the FTA with the EU, he noted that after public hearing and a study commissioned for this purpose, there may be government approval and a negotiating mandate before the end of the year. 

2.- Proposal for relaxation of the Foreign Business Act that restricts various activities, especially services.  The accompanying proposal was made, essentially suspending restrictions for 3 years and analyzing permanent liberalization in that period.  The Minister reported the forthcoming liberalization of telecommunications in Mode 1, software development and banking treasury management activities.  Indeed a very limited liberalization.  On the proposal of the JFCCT (attached) for broad and widespread liberalization, he suggested that the dialogue be continued.  There does not appear to be any consensus in the government on the new economic policy guidelines to revive foreign investment.  As much as all westerners see that interest has fallen considerably, Thailand does not seem to feel the pressure, perhaps it counts more on Chinese investments.

3. Opening of borders.  Representatives of foreign companies have been requesting by all means that the travel of foreign executives and workers be facilitated for all tasks, from the provision of technical assistance services to business development.  Thailand is in great need of all these visitors and residents.  We did not get the impression that there was consensus with health authorities that continue to have a zero contagion target supported by the Prime Minister.  Representatives of the tourism sector had an impact on the special situation they are going through.  Little of this seemed to touch the Minister.  Although we assume you’ll get the message over.  Obviously the issue is in the press every day and there is now speculation about reducing quarantines from 14 to 10 days. 

4. There was a proposal to study what could be done to improve freight lines as to regain part of competitiveness that is being lost to other countries and ports.  Ministry officials will have to consider these issues coming from high cost of freight affecting both imports and exports.

In short, the dialogue continues but so far has not materialized in concrete progress.

National newspapers such as Bangkok Post echoed the news:
https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/2014787/foreign-firms-ask-for-list-3-change

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