Trade war prompts US firms to set sights on Thailand

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and US President Donald Trump (right).

Companies in the United States are transferring their operations to Southeast Asia—particularly Thailand—having suffered from more than a year of trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

Thailand deputy secretary-general to the prime minister Kobsak Pootrakool said that many executives from US firms are seeking the help of the Board of Investments (BoI) and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak to facilitate their relocation plans after an already 16-month trade spat between the US and China.

“The government’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) initiative and new investment policies to promote high technology, R&D (research and development), innovation, headquarters and human resource development have made Thailand more enticing to foreign investment,” Pootrakool said.

He said Jatusripitak has already assigned the BoI to assist their relocation and design investment packages fit for their needs.

During the first nine months of the year, US investors ranked ninth by country in application privileges in Thailand with 3 billion baht covering 24 projects.

Last year alone, US businesses applied for 38 projects worth 333 billion baht, of which 18.3 billion baht was approved.

Thailand is currently the US’ 20th-largest trade partner, as two-way trade totaled to $44.5 billion in 2018.

The US goods trade deficit with Thailand was at $19.3 billion also last year.

Pootrakool said a New York-listed company, VMware Inc., has also sought for the government’s cooperation and support on information technology-related human resource development.

He said VMware chief executive officer Patrick Gelsinger proposed to help the government develop cybersecurity and cloud services, as well as digital infrastructure in the EEC and an e-government development plan.

On Friday, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) inked a memorandum of understanding with Guangdong-based China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Committee (CCPIT) for the cooperation on the promotion of innovation and technology, education and tourism, R&D on economic-related issues, trade, and culture.

FTI chairman Supant Mongkolsuthree expects that the partnership will result in attracting more trade and investments in Thailand from Guangdong.

The province of Guangdong has the largest gross domestic product share in China, having contributed 9.73 trillion yuan or $1.47 trillion for last year alone.

CCPIT also led 20 companies from Guangdong to visit the EEC.