AMCHAM on Thai-US Relations
Interview with Mr. Darren Buckley, American Chamber of Commerce President.
How do you think American products fare with Thais, compared with products from other countries?
Pretty high. The US, as you know, is one of the largest foreign direct investors in Thailand, with about 7 billion in FDI. If you look at the total investment in Thailand from US companies, that investment is about $50 billion. US companies employ about 250,000 Thais here.
That size of investment obviously demonstrates that Thais are quite happy to buy American goods and use American products. Certainly American companies here strive hard to make sure that their products are desired by Thais.
How does the US view Thailand compared to other countries in the region?
Thailand is a very important part to the US. Asean itself is of significant importance to the US, and investment in Asean, on a cumulative basis, is more than $200 billion. If you think that $50 billion of that is invested in Thailand, that is 25%. Total US investment in Asean is bigger than the combined investment in Korea, China and Japan. Asean is important and Thailand is a critically important part of Asean. It’s the oldest ally of the US in the region, so this is a long-term friendship.
Has the current sluggish economic circumstances affected US investment in Thailand?
Certainly, I would say that in some companies, earnings are a little weaker than they would expect to see. But in terms of overall investment, no, there’s been no change in investment.
American companies are very much committed to Thailand. They are working very hard to ensure that Thailand is able to continue to play a leadership role in Asean and, at the end of the day, Thailand has sustainable economic growth for the future. With $50 billion invested in this market, American companies are very much vested in the success of Thailand and the Thai economy.
Has the current political situation affected US investment?
You have to differentiate. There are a few differences of opinion between the US government and the current Thai government. The US believes that democracy is important and, obviously, last year’s coup at least suspended Thailand’s existing form of democracy at that time. But, at the end of the day, it’s for Thailand to workout what forms and shapes democracy should take. Just because there are differences of opinion — I’m sure where you have friends or family, you occasionally have differences of opinion — that doesn’t mean you walk away from each other. The relationship is still strong. It has been built over 182 years of collaboration, ever since the first treaty was signed in 1833. Differences of opinionshould be respected between partners. But at the end of the day, Thailand and the US will continue to be close on a long-term basis.
How does Amcham continue to promote business in Thailand?
Well, that’s the political aspect. We are here from a business perspective. We may have to adjust. American companies will adjust their business activities based more on the economic environment. So what we are looking for is how the economy is moving forward. What are the opportunities for domestic sales? What are the opportunities for manufacturing for export? And how does that compare with other countries in the region? At the end of the day, for investment decisions to take place, what American companies are looking for is an understanding of the outlook in terms of long-term stability. We have a very stable environment today. But will it remain stable in the long term? If it does, that is more conducive to investment.
Source: Bangkok Post
Photo : Darren Buckley, president of Amcham Thailand