Selling Thailand to the world: How did Srettha do at APEC?


Branding himself a “salesman for Thailand”, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin boasted of clinching international investment worth up to $5 billion last week during APEC summits in the US.

The premier’s packed agenda at the 2023 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Week in San Francisco featured meetings with business leaders, heads of state and the expat Thai community.

Srettha, who doubles as finance minister, told the APEC CEO Summit that Thailand was back in business and ready to work with all partners, old or new, public or private, to push economic development.

He said his government aims to increase economic growth, boost competitiveness and elevate Thailand’s position as a “prominent destination for trade and investment”.

Sustainability, technology and innovation, and trade and investment were all on the agenda, he said, adding: “It’s time to invest in Thailand.”

Deals closed by ‘salesman PM’

After Srettha returned on Sunday, the ruling Pheu Thai Party revealed he had done deals at APEC with around 15 major companies for potential investment in Thailand.

The companies are Tesla, HP, Analog Devices Inc (ADI), Google, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Walmart, Western Digital, Open AI, Apple, TikTok, Booking. com, Citi, Meta, and Nvidia.

The ruling party said the PM had secured concrete investments pledges from three of these – Google, Microsoft, and AWS.

All three multinationals have agreed to establish data centres in Thailand, with Google and Microsoft pledging to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Thai government to jointly enhance the nation's digital economy infrastructure.

Srettha said on Sunday that these investments would last for up to 10 years and could exceed $5 billion in value.

The government said indications were positive for investment from the other 12 firms. For instance, Tesla is considering establishing a manufacturing base in Thailand and is scheduled to inspect potential factory locations here next Tuesday, it said.

Srettha also convinced Open AI, the owner of renowned chatbot Chat GPT, to set up research centres in Phuket and Chiang Mai.

The Thai leader also showcased his southern Land Bridge trade route to investors and international leaders at APEC, explaining it would offer an alternative to the congested Malacca Strait and create 280,000 jobs while boosting Thai GDP by 5.5% annually.

Selling Thailand to the world: How did Srettha do at APEC?

Talking with world leaders

Among global leaders Srettha spoke with during APEC Week were Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Australia’s Anthony Albanese, Japan’s PM Fumio Kishida, the US’s Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping.

During talks with Kishida, Srettha promised to look after Japan’s Thailand-based manufacturers of internal combustion engine vehicles despite the country’s transition to electric vehicle production.

He also revealed that Thailand is exploring the possibility of a free-trade agreement with Canada and also discussing more investment opportunities with Australia as the two countries prepare to mark 50 years of ties next year.

The premier also had dinner with President Biden and invited him for an official visit to Thailand.

Srettha had a casual and brief conversation with Xi, with video showing the pair discussing football together.

The PM also met with representatives of the expat Thai community at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. Srettha, who lived in the US for six years when he was a student, emphasised the need to get Thai talent back to the country and pledged to enhance Thailand's economy for their well-being.

Srettha Thavisin and Anthony Albanese