Bangkok, 30 March 2016 – The European Association for Business and Commerce (EABC) today hosted a launch seminar of its successful series - European Business Position Paper. This seminar aimed at strengthening Thai-European economic relations towards a more competitive Thai economy in 2016. The Vice Minister for Finance, H.E. Mr. Kiatchai Sophastienphong, said “it has been firmly suggested that Thailand should improve its competiveness to tackle both internal and international economic challenges.” Thailand is soon to become a country with an innovation-driven economy and will materialize its agenda of becoming a R&D Hub in ASEAN. Four key recommendations were given to boost Thailand’s competitiveness and gain more attractiveness as a trade and investment destination following the emerging of ASEAN.
Mr. Rolf–Dieter Daniel, President of EABC, said “I believe that Thailand is a nation with diversified and robust economy with outstanding hospitality which makes Thailand unique and attractive for European-long term investments.” However, recognizing the current trend dubbed ‘The New Normal’ of the global economy of lower economic growth, the country’s efforts to increase economic growth and improve social and economic welfare to its citizens seemed to be hampered. Coupled with two other ASEAN member states, Singapore and Vietnam, joining a bilateral EU FTA, Thailand becomes less competitive in the ASEAN region. To ensure Thailand’s attractiveness and capability to overcome the middle income trap, the EABC President called for Thailand’s continuation to improve economic relations and establish its role as a global player, fostering and strengthening cooperation with its regional and global partners.
The 2016 Position Paper is the outcome of the efforts of the EABC 10 advocacy working groups, representing leading European companies in Thailand. In order to gather the EABC’s policy recommendations to the Royal Thai Government, EABC held a panel discussion titled “Strengthening Thai-European Economic Relations towards a More Competitive Thai Economy” with EABC representatives. Four key recommendations were concluded as follows:
Significance of Thailand-EU FTA is recognized as a win-win proposal for both Thailand and EU to improve bilateral economic relations through zero percent tariff rates, removal of non-tariff barriers, enhanced investment, better technology transfer and ensured intellectual property protection. Moreover, according to research from Sasin Graduate Institute (2016), a FTA with the EU will increase Thailand’s economic growth by eight percent. During the current political situation, it was reiterated that a resumption of the EU-Thailand FTA on a technical level should remain a priority.
Ease of Doing Business, Trade Facilitation and Further Liberalization of the Service Sector notably plays significant roles in improving Thailand’s anti-corruption efforts. Ease of doing business will enhance Thailand’s attractiveness as an investment destination through fair and simplified regulatory and procedural frameworks, focusing in particular on VISA and work permit, certification and approval process and Customs procedures. This will ensure the creation of the level of playing field and free flow of expertise required in developing Thailand’s innovation.
Ensuring Technology Transfer and Supporting Innovative Economy will move Thailand from an efficiency-driven economy to an innovative-driven economy. As a matter of fact, Thailand still has limited capacity to develop high technology or enhance state-of-the-art-knowledge which requires foreign expertise as well as firm regulatory framework providing protection of invention and innovation. It is highlighted that both Thai and foreign inventors and innovators needed to be protected with regards to the intellectual property rights. Without strong enforcement on intellectual protection via laws and regulations, innovative-driven model economy cannot be materialized.
Thailand as ASEAN Connectivity and World-Class Destination for Investment is naturally and strategically advantages for Thailand in the context of ASEAN. Thailand needs to boost its capacity in connecting the region through improving infrastructure both the soft- (ICT) and hard-ware (rail and road) as well as take a leading role in developing and implementing the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) to facilitate the harmonization of standards and the interoperability in the region. Streamlining the customs procedures is also recommended in this area.