Prime Minister confers with U.S.-ASEAN corporate leaders

pix 2Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha met with a delegation of leading executives from 29 major United States companies last week who were part of a delegation visiting the region organized by the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, a private-sector business group.

The Prime Minister told reporters after the meeting at Government House that the executives told him they would continue to invest in Thailand. The prime minister detailed his economic agenda and policies to the businessmen, all of whose companies are members of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tanasak Patimapragorn and Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula, who supervises ministries crucial to the economy, joined the Prime Minister.

“I told them that we and the Americans have been friends for over 180 years and our friendship must continue,’’ Prime Minister Prayut said.

U.S. firms have a major presence in Thailand. Their investments in the Kingdom accounted for roughly one quarter of all U.S. private sector investments in Southeast Asia, or $204 billion, in 2013, the most recent year for which complete statistics were available.

Although diplomatic relations between Thailand and the U.S. have cooled slightly since the May 2014 intervention by the military in government, Council members said Thailand’s politics had no effect on their commitments to doing business in the Kingdom.

“Business likes stability and certainty. We are comfortable with the stability we have now. There are no protests blocking the business district, and no violence now. We continue to encourage Thailand to move down the path of democracy and towards elections,’’ said Alexander Feldman, the Council’s president and chief executive officer.

Discussions between the delegation and the government focused on how U.S. companies could continue to support ongoing economic reforms and opportunities to participate in Thailand’s ambitious broad ranging development plans, including those in the digital, financial, health and legal sectors, the Council said in a statement.

“The 29 US companies on our delegation this year came to encourage the government to continue to move forward with reforms that will create a stronger business environment. We particularly wanted to recognize the progress that has been made in reforming the customs regime as well as the ambitious plans for infrastructure,” Feldman said.

Companies participating in the delegation include AIG, Brown-Forman, Caterpillar, Chevron, Cigna, Cisco, Citi, the Coca-Cola Company, Conoco-Phillips, Dow, Eli Lilly, Ford, GE, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, Guardian, MasterCard Worldwide, Merck, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Microsoft, Monsanto, Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, Qualcomm, Seagate, Syngenta, Time Warner, UPS, and Visa.

The Council has been a strong advocate for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact that is the signature trade initiative of President Barack Obama. The Council has been urging Thailand to join the TPP.

Prime Minister Prayut said, however, that the issue did not come up during the meeting. He added that all factors would need to taken into account, and all stakeholders consulted, before Thailand would consider joining. He specifically mentioned the Ministry of Public Health as a stakeholder because public health advocates have voiced concerns about availability of generic and other medicines under the TPP’s terms.


Thailand Focus August 10, 2015
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