By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
The two nations also will cooperate in technology transfer in farming and manufacturing.
After a four-day business mission to Tokyo last week led by Commerce Minister General Chatchai Sarikulya, the Thai government foresees closer cooperation with Japan in many dimensions as part of strategies to make the Kingdom a centre of investment and trading for Japan.
For its part, Japan will no longer be only an investor in the Kingdom, but Thai investors foresee more opportunities to do business in Japan under its open economic policies.
"Thailand and Japan agreed to expand trade and investment for both sides for mutual benefit in all dimensions," Chatchai said. "Thailand will no longer be only a receiver of Japanese investment, but will also actively trade with and invest more in Japan. Japan will also continue to invest and trade more with the Kingdom, as Thailand is considered Japan’s second home and a springboard to third countries."
Japan will participate in Thailand’s high-speed-rail project linking the Northern, Eastern and Central regions with 1,200 kilometres of track.
Chatchai said that since the Thai government had initiated development of special economic zones, it had encouraged more Japanese companies to invest in the SEZs in 10 provinces, since they could be gateways for Japanese investors to penetrate other Asean countries under the regional integration.
In response to the Thai government’s invitation during this mission, Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation) agreed to bring about 20 representatives of Japanese enterprises to the Kingdom this month to explore trade and investment opportunities.
With politics in Thailand stable for now under the military regime and Asean integration approaching, Japanese businesspeople are optimistic about continuing to invest in the Kingdom, a businessman from Keidanren told Chatchai during their meeting.
Chatchai said his ministry, as the agency responsible for trade promotion, would also organise business matching for Thai and Japanese enterprises.
He also met with the Japanese ministers of economy, trade and industry and for agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The latter minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, said his ministry would arrange a visit to Thailand next month to strengthen trade in agricultural products. The mission will include a discussion on development of the farming sectors for both sides and increasing Japanese imports of agricultural products from Thailand.
Thailand has urged Japan to import more rice, processed and frozen chicken, fruits, rubber, sugar, and spa products and hotel amenities as Japan is one of the world’s biggest consumption markets.
Surapon Vongvadharoj, vice chairman of the Board of Trade and the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said Japan could help Thailand in various industries, as well as in farming, as it had high technology and know-how.
He said that with stronger ties with Japan, Thai private enterprises had foreseen brighter prospects for trading and industrial development to make Thailand Asean’s centre of trading and supplier of high-quality products.
Sakchai Unchittikul, vice chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said Thailand could be a strong base for Japanese investment and trading to third markets, since Japan still had confidence in this country’s infrastructure development and stability as compared with other Asean countries.
Industries in which Thailand and Japan should cooperate in developing production standards are food, lifestyle, cosmetics, spa and healthcare products, and products to serve ageing societies.
During the mission, Chatchai learned about an agricultural-cooperative system in Yamanashi prefecture. He said that since farmers there had focused on quality production and local cooperation, they were happy and enjoyed high incomes.
"The government will learn to adopt Japanese farmers’ methods of strengthening local cooperatives so that farmers will not need to rely on government subsidies, while farm goods will see stable prices and stable demand," he said.
Yoshihiko Kubokawa, general manager of the farm sales department of the Japan Agriculture Cooperative in Yamanashi, said Japanese farmers were quite satisfied with stable incomes and balanced supply and demand of farm products since they learned to adopt
zoning systems to control agricultural output. Japanese farmers have also concentrated on good-quality production rather than quantity so their products enjoy high demand from consumers.