Kingdom ready to join free-trade pacts, assessing TPP, Premier says at Apec meet
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told the US business community yesterday that her government was preparing to negotiate entry into numerous free-trade arrangements – possibly including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) – and to open up the Kingdom’s planned Bt2 trillion worth of infrastructure projects to foreign investors.
Yingluck met American businesspeople and investors at a meeting of the US-Apec Business Coalition in Bali, where she is attending the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum.
Evolving out of a free-trade agreement formed by Chile, New Zealand and Singapore in the early 2000s, the proposed TPP is a much broader pact that is championed by the US, which aims to include more countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam and Malaysia.
The Thai government is in consultations with the private sector and other concerned parties to assess the readiness and impact of the TPP scheme before making a final decision on the Kingdom’s involvement, government spokesman Teerat Ratana-sevi quoted Yingluck as saying.
Formed in 1993, the US-Apec Business Coalition, of which the US-Apec Business Council is a founding member, brings together leading US business associations active in Apec and Asian business affairs in support of US business goals and priorities in the Apec process.
The coalition was formed by high-ranking executives of leading US companies such as Microsoft, Google, FedEx, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Oracle, eBay, Time Warner and MasterCard.
Yingluck briefed them on the general state of the Thai economic environment, political stability and the investment climate, as well as the government’s planned Bt2-trillion infrastructure mega-projects, which she said would support the trade and commerce prospects in this region, especially under the Asean Economic Community 2015.
The government assured foreign investors it has the ability to handle foreign investment fairly under clear laws and regulations, Teerat said.
The prime minister said Thailand’s agriculture and alternative-energy sectors, as well as the Bt2-trillion infrastructure mega-projects offered good opportunities for US firms to invest in Thai logistics, laying the foundation for numerous industries in the future.
US-Apec Business Coalition official Thomas Donohue said many US companies were interested in investing in Thailand’s infrastructure development in various forms.
Yingluck was quoted as saying the participation could take many forms, such as joint ventures and private public partnership (PPPs). She assured delegates the government’s investment in the mega-projects would not raise Thailand’s public debt level over 50 per cent of gross domestic product.
The project would turn Thailand into a regional hub and gateway to the entire Southeast Asia region, Teerat quoted the premier as telling the US business community.
At the Apec summit meeting, Yingluck told her regional counterparts that as full trade liberalisation could not be materialised soon, Thailand supported the idea of an “early harvest”.
In fact, Apec has made significant progress on trade and investment liberalisation in recent years, she was quoted as saying.
Many trade schemes emerging in recent times – such as the TPP and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as well as other bilateral and multilateral free-trade agreements – would supplement Apec, she said.
However, liberalisation alone could not sustain economic growth for the benefit of all. Countries needed clear development goals that placed people at its centre, she said.
Yingluck will today join a retreat with other leaders. The retreat has the theme “Apec’s vision of connectivity in the evolving regional and international architecture”.