U.S. upgrades Thailand on IP, businesses welcome move

The Thai government and business executives welcomed a decision by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) last Friday to improve the Kingdom’s ranking on enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights and protections because of corrective actions taken by Thailand.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert (USTR) Lighthizer said engaging with Thailand has “yielded results on resolving U.S. IP concerns across a range of issues, including on enforcement, patents and pharmaceuticals, trademarks and copyright.”

The revised ranking followed an out-of-cycle review of the Kingdom’s efforts on IP protections. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha asked the U.S. to re-examine and reconsider Thailand’s policies and actions on IP when he met with President Donald Trump in Washington D.C. at the president’s invitation during October. Trade issues were high on the agenda of both leaders.

Praising the commitment of the current Thai administration on this issue, Lighthizer said “This strong level of interest from the highest levels of the government led to improved coordination among government entities, as well as enhanced and sustained enforcement efforts to combat counterfeit and pirated goods throughout the country.” He added that the U.S. looked forward to continuing to work with Thailand on IP issues.

Thailand’s own development goals were an even stronger motivation to strengthen IP protections than the USTR ranking. The ability to effectively protect copyrights, patents and intellectual property is crucial for Thailand in achieving its national strategy known as Thailand 4.0. The strategy aims to create an economy driven by innovation, research and development and higher technologies. Lack of adequate IP protections would be a deterrent to attracting the investment need to make the strategy a success.

That fact was noted by Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, who said the USTR decision would help increase investment in Thailand, but urged the government to continue making progress. Chen Namchaisiri, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, agreed that the improved ranking would ease concerns among investors.

After a decade on the USTR’s 301 Priority Watch List, Thailand was moved up a notch to the Watch List. Thai government officials have said they are committed to continue to improve and will spare no effort to implement measures to strengthen IP protections and expect the country’s Watch List to be removed in the near future.