Visit boosts China-Thailand links
A recent HKTDC-led Hong Kong business delegation to Thailand explored cooperation opportunities.
14 August 2019
Exchanges between China and Thailand date back as far as the Han Dynasty 2,000 years ago; Thailand’s status as a key ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member and China’s Belt and Road Initiative mean these well-established ties are becoming more extensive and stronger.
Dr Peter K N Lam, the new Chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), led a Hong Kong business mission to Bangkok, Thailand in late July to discuss with Thai government and business leaders the opportunities that closer cooperation between Mainland China, Thailand and Hong Kong presented. The mission, Dr Lam’s first as HKTDC Chairman, focused on cooperation opportunities in trade, manufacturing, investment and services under the Belt and Road Initiative and the Thailand 4.0 economic programme. The mission also examined ways that Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development plan can be aligned to strengthen connections between the mainland and ASEAN countries.
The mission, organised by the HKTDC, comprised Denis Yip, Commissioner for Belt and Road of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government, and some 20 Hong Kong business representatives from sectors including finance, architecture, engineering consultancy, manufacturing and trade.
During their 24-26 July visit to Bangkok, the delegation called on the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Somkid Jatusripitak, who gave a keynote speech at the 2018 Belt and Road Summit in Hong Kong. In the meeting, there was an exchange of views on how best to align the Thailand 4.0 and EEC projects with China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Greater Bay Area development. There were also discussions on how to leverage Hong Kong’s advantages in finance, trade and talent to facilitate cooperation between Thailand, the mainland and Hong Kong. The meeting laid a good foundation for future communication, collaboration and the establishment of a specific cooperation framework among the three parties.
Delegates also had a luncheon meeting with China’s Ambassador to Thailand, Lyu Jian, where they gained a better understanding of mainland enterprises’ investment and trade activities in Thailand.
Dr Lam said: “Thailand has long been an important ASEAN trading partner for Hong Kong. We learnt from our mission that the Thai government’s Thailand 4.0 blueprint and EEC project complement the Belt and Road Initiative and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development plan, and that Thailand welcomes international and mainland investors while also bringing new opportunities for Hong Kong companies, especially in areas related to infrastructure, technology and industrial parks. Hong Kong enterprises are keen to participate in developments that can help them diversify their production bases and overseas markets.”
Dr Lam also said: “In a business environment fraught with uncertainties, enterprises must explore ways to lower their risks and develop new markets. The HKTDC hopes to facilitate cooperation with Thai businesses and strengthen our business-matching work through our Bangkok office and 50 offices around the world to help companies get through this challenging time.”
EEC and Greater Bay Area
The delegation met with Luxmon Attapich, Deputy Secretary General of the Eastern Economic Corridor Office (EECO), Chokedee Kaewsang, Deputy Secretary General of the Board of Investment of Thailand (BOI), and Krittayaporn Dabbhadatta, Deputy Governor of the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT), to learn about the latest developments in Thailand as well as the investment and tax incentives offered in the EEC and various industrial estates. They also discussed cooperation opportunities in financing, technology and innovation such as the development of smart cities in these projects. Attendees also discussed connecting the Greater Bay Area with Thailand’s EEC, linking up the two huge markets of ASEAN and China to help turbocharge economic activity in the region.
Tripartite cooperation opportunities
The delegation also met a number of Thai business leaders including Dhanin Chearavanont, Senior Chairman of CP Group; Vikrom Kromadit, Chairman of Amata Group, the largest industrial estate developer in Thailand; and Kavin Kanjanapas, CEO and Managing Director of BTS Group. The meetings explored how Hong Kong, through its expertise in financing and professional services, can connect mainland and international investors and support the urban development of the EEC and Bangkok through such projects as high-speed railways, industrial parks and smart cities. This will help create opportunities for mainland and Hong Kong enterprises, including manufacturers as well as technology and professional services providers.
As a major country in the ASEAN bloc, Thailand’s economy has long been driven by strong domestic demand. The Sino-United States trade dispute resulted in a significant growth in Thailand’s exports last year. In an effort to attract more overseas investors, Thailand is now opening up more sectors for overseas investment, including next-generation vehicle production, smart electronics, medical and health tourism, agricultural technology, biotechnology and the food business. These developments will in turn bring opportunities for sectors related to talent training, professional services and related areas. Current investment hotspots include robotics, aviation, logistics, biofuel and biochemistry, technology and healthcare services.
Thailand is one of Hong Kong’s most important trading partners in the ASEAN region. In 2018, Hong Kong’s exports to Thailand were valued at HK$60.6 billion, up 12% from the year before. With the commitments made by the two economies under the Hong Kong-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and related Investment Agreement coming into force in June, trade and investment between Hong Kong and Thailand have been given a further boost through enhanced legal protection and better market access. Mainland China, being Thailand’s second-largest export market and largest source of imports, is currently Thailand’s largest trading partner.
HKTDC Research – Thailand
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