EMBASSY’S ACTIVITIES / ARTICLES
May 26, 2017
Welcoming Remarks by H.E. Mr. Vijavat Isarabhakdi Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to Canada at the Opportunity Thailand Seminar Toronto, 25 May 2017
Welcoming Remarks by
H.E. Mr. Vijavat Isarabhakdi
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to Canada
at the Opportunity Thailand Seminar
Toronto, 25 May 2017
Ms. Ajarin Pattanapanchai, Deputy Secretary-General
of the Thailand Board of Investment,
Ms. Korbsiri Iamsuri, Director of the New York Office
of theThailand Board of Investment,
Mr. Leigh Smout, Executive Director of the World Trade Centre Toronto,
Distinguished Members of the Toronto Business Sector,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning, Sawasdee krub, and welcome to the Opportunity Thailand Seminar organized by the Thailand Board of Investment.
My name is Vijavat Isarabhakdi and I have had the pleasure of serving as Thailand’s Ambassador to Canada for over two years now, (but having faced three Canadian winters already).
I have been in Canada long enough to know that Ice Hockey is almost like a religion here in this country, and that you have a very famous team here in this city called the Toronto Maple Leafs, which has won a lot of championships in a tournament called the Stanley Cup. I do wish that I were visiting this city during a time when your Maple Leafs were contesting for a place in the finals of the tournament since I’m sure that the atmosphere here would have been very exciting and upbeat.
As it is, I understand that my adopted hometown team, the Ottawa Senators, are the only Canadian team left in the tournament, which, I’m not sure whether you regard that as a good thing or a bad thing. Anyway, regardless of any inter-city rivalries, I am certain that everyone should agree that a Stanley Cup victory in Canada’s centennial year, which was the last time a Canadian team won the trophy, followed by another one this year when Canada is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation, would truly be a great thing for everyone in this country.
Anyhow, it is always a great pleasure for me to be in Toronto. This must be around the 10th time that I have been in this dynamic city ever since arriving in Canada in 2015. As a matter of fact, I was in Toronto just 6 days ago for the visit of Thailand’s Minister of Labour. I then went back to Ottawa for a couple of days, then travelled to New Brunswick for my first official visit, and then I flew here directly from Fredericton last night.
I will be back here again in June for the Taste of Asia festival in Markham, and then on 9th September, the Royal Thai Embassy will be organizing our annual Destination Thailand festival at Yonge-Dundas Square, which will feature Thai cuisine, cultural performances, Muay Thai Boxing, and much more. So, I hope to see many of you there again in September.
But enough about that, and more about why we have invited you here today, namely, to discuss the many exciting business opportunities that are available for you in Thailand.
If there is one thing that I have discovered during my two plus years in Canada—well, there are two things, the first thing being that Canadians, like Thais, are among the nicest people in the world. But the other thing that I have discovered is that Canadians still know relatively little about Thailand and the tremendous opportunities that are available in our country.
Of course, you already know about our Thai cuisine and that it is regarded as one of the most popular cuisines in the world. But you may, or may not, know that in CNN’s list of the 50 most popular dishes in the world, seven of those dishes are from Thailand, the most of any country.
You may also know that Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with over 30 million foreign tourists visiting Thailand last year. But did you know that in a Mastercard Global Destinations Survey conducted last year, Bangkok was the most visited city in the world, overtaking London and Paris? Or did you know that a shopping mall in downtown Bangkok was the most instagrammed place in the world a few years ago?
Food and tourism are indeed two of the things that Canadians know about Thailand, and that is not a bad thing. But as far as trade and investment are concerned, which is in your line of business, there are a great many other things that most Canadians may not realize. Let me name but a few.
- First, Thailand is the second largest economy in Southeast Asia, with very strong economic fundamentals, as reflected through our high foreign reserves, as well as low unemployment and low inflation.
- like Canada, Thailand is one of the major food-exporting countries in the world and is the leading producer of many agricultural goods, such as rice, natural rubber, sugar and fishery products, to name just a few.
- While agriculture was our traditional economic base, industry now accounts for a significantly larger share of our economy. We are currently one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of hard disk drives, integrated circuits, electronics, televisions, computers, air conditioners, and much more. (If we manufactured heaters rather than air conditioners, perhaps there would be even more trade with Canada.)
- Like Canada, Thailand is one of the leading automobile manufacturing countries of the world and the largest in Southeast Asia. We are the No. 1 producer of one-ton trucks and second only to the United States in pickup truck production.
Thailand occupies a central and strategic position within Southeast Asia whose ten countries form an organization called ASEAN, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. As an economically integrated grouping, ASEAN represents a market of over 620 million people and a combined GDP of some 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars. As a single entity, ASEAN represents the 6th largest economy in the world, attracting over 10 percent of global Foreign Direct Investment inflows.
Within this dynamic region, Thailand has become an international business hub for multinational corporations, with giant conglomerates as well as SMEs establishing their international regional headquarters and offices in Bangkok. There must be a good reason why U.S. News and World Reports has ranked Thailand as No. 1 in the world for Best Country to Start a Business two years in a row now. Virtually all the major U.S. and Japanese corporations are already well established in the country, but Canadian companies are still lacking, and this is something that I have been trying very hard to work on ever since I arrived in this country.
That said, I recently visited the offices of Manulife and was pleased to see that they are doing good business in Thailand, along with other Canadian businesses such as Nova Scotia Bank, Magna, Celestica and Bombardier, among others.
My work has not been an easy task. I am well aware that some 75 percent of Canada’s trade is done with the United States, which represents a huge market, inextricably bound to Canada through geographical proximity, values, and the buying power of the world’s largest economy.
Other than the U.S., your focus might be on Mexico with whom you are also partners in NAFTA, and the European Union, with whom you have historical and cultural ties and have recently concluded CETA, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
Then, if you were to look towards Asia, you are undoubtedly attracted first and foremost to China and India, owing to the massive size of their population, as well as to Japan and South Korea, which are both important economies. This has left Thailand somewhat off your radar screen.
But I think that if events taking place south of your border teach us anything, not to mention events across the Atlantic in Europe, they teach us that the world is still a very uncertain place. Things that may have seemed “a sure bet” one day, may suddenly become “a risky bet” the next day. Therefore, it may not be such a bad idea to start diversifying your business interactions and not to place all your eggs in the same basket. It is not a matter of reducing your trade with any country, but, rather, expanding your trade to include new partners with great potential.
It is therefore the intention of this seminar to inform our Canadian friends of the vast opportunities available in Thailand for you all to do business. Like Canada, Thailand is an open economy that espouses free trade and attaches great importance to trade with other countries. Like Canada, trade is in our DNA.
According to your own Export Development Canada, or EDC, “Thailand’s relatively strong infrastructure, business-friendly and pro-investment policies continue to encourage investment inflows and support sustained economic success.” EDC adds that “Being strategically located in the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand presents a full range of export and trade opportunities for Canadian businesses across multiple sectors.”
At present, the current government in Thailand is implementing a so-called “Thailand 4.0” Model of economic development aimed at releasing the country from the “middle income trap” and elevating Thailand to the next level of economic development and prosperity. While Thailand 1.0 represented the period when the country was still an agriculture-based economy, Thailand 2.0 and Thailand 3.0 reflected the country’s movement towards light industries and advanced industries. Thailand 4.0 is thus the next natural phase of development, aimed at transforming the country towards a “value-based” economy driven by innovation and high technology.
As we pursue this path of economic development, there are many measures that need to be taken which could benefit from Canadian support and investment. These include human resource development and skills training; development of technology clusters and targeted industries; as well as development of entrepreneurs and building a network of innovative enterprises. These are all areas in which Canada excels and which Canada can beneficially partner with Thailand.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I cannot conclude without saying a word about Thailand’s current political situation, which is an important factor for your business activities. On this topic, I am pleased to say that for the past few years, the Government has been pushing forward a programme of comprehensive reforms in all sectors, including governance, rule of law, education, and economic development. Many of these reforms will create an even more conducive environment for you to do business.
Much time has also been spent on drafting a new Constitution that would lay the foundations for a stronger and more sustainable, more equitable democratic system. After passing a national referendum in August of last year, the new Constitution was signed into law by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun just last month on April 6th. As a result, the process has already started, culminating in nationwide elections to be held sometime next year, although a number of organic laws must first be enacted before the elections can take place. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, and whichever political party wins, you can be assured that the policies of the new government will continue to promote free, fair and open trade, much as all previous Thai governments have done.
I think I will end here in order to allow you to hear from someone who knows much more about the investment promotion policies of the Thai Government than I do, namely, the Deputy Secretary-General of Thailand’s Board of Investment. I am confident that what she has to say should be of great interest to you in understanding more about Thailand and our great potential.
We seek to be your partner, and hope that you will avail yourselves of the tremendous opportunities that are available in our country.