The Nation | March 6, 2015
European body seeks changes to trade-related regulations
The European Association for Business and Commerce has urged Thailand to revise trade-related regulations, improve the investment climate for various industries and adopt more innovation to make its economy competitive and attractive to foreign investment.
Improvement of trade-related standardisation and alignment with internationally accepted standards will enable Thailand not only to diversify its export products and expand its markets in Europe, but also to boost investor confidence and attract more investment from Europe to support innovation and R&D in the future.
The EABC, which acts as the voice of European businesses in Thailand, also proposed customs reforms for transparency and efficiency in customs procedures through clearer and more transparent policymaking and standardisation of rules and regulations among government agencies.
Another recommendation is further liberalisation of the services industry and relaxation of foreign ownership restrictions to encourage foreign investment and facilitate the transfers of technology, skills and expertise from the European Union (EU).
The EABC publicised all of its recommendations in its annual "European Business Position Paper: trade/investment issues and recommendations in support of a competitive economy in Thailand".
The paper is a source of information from the EU and European member states to facilitate cooperation with Thai policymakers and authorities.
At the launch of the paper yesterday, EABC president Rolf-Dieter Daniel said the EABC also wants to see a swift resumption of negotiations for the Thailand-EU Free Trade Agreement for mutual benefit.
The EABC would approach the European Commission and policymakers in Europe to convince them that the re-engagement of technical discussions regarding this FTA should be resumed.
This will enable European businesses to expand trade and investment in Thailand and also jumpstart the ailing Thai export sector.
After the military coup last May, the Thailand-EU FTA talks were suspended. The EU said last June that the EU and its member states will not sign the partnership and cooperation agreement with Thailand until a democratically elected government is in place.
"Thailand is facing challenges, due to economic turbulence, national instability and the increasingly competitive environment in regional and global markets, in developing a new strategy to maintain its attractiveness as a leading investment destination in Asean," said Lyn Kok, EABC vice president
"The FTA negotiations between Thailand and the EU can be one imperative factor that will bring mutual benefits to both economies. Gains from the completion of FTA negotiations are expected to improve Thailand’s social welfare and resource allocation, as Europeans can bring in capital, high technology, expertise, innovation and improvement in regulatory standards and procedures," she added.
"Thailand ranks as the third-largest trading partner of the EU, while the EU is the second-largest source of foreign direct investment to Thailand. The EU is willing to support and open its doors to innovative products from Thailand.
"However, regulatory difficulties for investing in Thailand still exist. Thailand needs to enhance transparency in policy-making and implementation of rules and regulations such as customs and other trade and investment restrictions," she said.
The EABC also called for the government to have a timely dialogue with it, particularly when new laws are being issued. The regulations of many ministries should be better aligned to ensure a much more favourable investment landscape for all investors.
Viriya Chongphaisal, the EABC representative, suggested that Thailand gear itself towards an innovation-driven economy with a greater infusion of innovation and technology into its products and services or manufacturing to add value to its exports and GDP.
The country should also eliminate technical barriers to trade that deny the market the entry of innovation.
Chularat Suteethorn, vice finance minister, said the government has initiated many reforms, such as comprehensive tax reform, to boost the country’s competitiveness and woo foreign investment.
The country also plans to develop new transport infrastructure while building up old transport and aviation systems.