- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 4 Oct 1994, p. 137-142
- Leekpai, His Excellency Chuan, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
Business opportunities in Thailand. Strengthening economic ties with Canada. Thailand as one attractive venue for Canadian investment. An overview of the current economic situation in Southeast Asia, and certain aspects of the financial reform in Thailand which impact on foreign investment.
- Date of Original
- 4 Oct 1994
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- His Excellency Chuan Leekpai, Prime Minister of Thailand
INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN THAILAND
Chairman: Herbert Phillipps Jr.
President, The Canadian Club of Toronto
Head Table Guests
Henry H. N. Hung, Managing Director, Shiu Pong Group Limited and Chairman, Thailand Business Association of Canada; His Excellency Sqn. Ldr. Prasong Soonsiri, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Thailand; His Excellency Manfred von Nostitz, Ambassador of Canada to Thailand; Hon. Robert Huget, M.P.P., Ontario Minister responsible for International Trade; His Excellency Chaiyot Sasomsub, Deputy Minister of Commerce for Thailand; Claudette Mackay-Lassonde, President, Firelight Investments Inc. and a Director, The Canadian Club of Toronto; John A. Campion, Partner, Fasken Campbell Godfrey and President, The Empire Club of Canada; His Excellency Chawat Arthayukti, Ambassador of Thailand to Canada; Peter McCain, Vice-President, Export Sales, McCain Foods Limited; His Excellency Supachai Panitchpakdi, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand; Clement Joly, FCA, Director and Partner, Raymond, Chabot, Martin, Pare, and Chairman, Quebec Advisory Committee, Thailand Business Association of Canada; His Excellency Gen. Vijit Sookmark, Minister of Defense for Thailand; Catherine R. Charlton, President, The Charlton Group and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; and Michael Kerr, Buddhist Communities of Greater Toronto and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen: At the outset, I should like to thank the Canadian Club of Toronto and the Empire Club of Canada for organising this luncheon meeting, which has brought together such an impressive group of Ontario business executives. It is an honour to meet with you at the end of my week-long visit to this beautiful and hospitable country. The visit has enabled me to exchange views with members of the private and governmental sectors on strengthening our co-operation in various fields. Toronto, as the meaning of the name suggests, is truly an important meeting place.
In Vancouver I told the business executives I met with about the business opportunities which exist in my part of the world, particularly in Thailand. In Ottawa yesterday, I had occasion to confer with Prime Minister Chretien on the strengthening of our economic ties. We agreed that we should double the value of our bilateral trade in five years. As my visit draws to an end, I cannot miss this opportunity to invite you to consider Thailand as one attractive venue for Canadian investment.
For the remainder of this presentation, I would like to give you an overview of the current economic situation in Southeast Asia, and certain aspects of the financial reform in Thailand which impact on foreign investment.
During the last two decades, Southeast Asia has managed to achieve impressive growth and stability. ASEAN, which comprises Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, has acted as a stabilising factor in the region. This regional stability has created a favourable environment for rapid and sustained development. Today, ASEAN ranks as the highest growth region in the world. We are forming a free-trade area among the ASEAN countries, called AFTA, which is quite similar to NAFTA in its attempt to reduce tariffs and to promote trade among ASEAN countries.
Apart from ASEAN, Southeast Asia also includes Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar. We may, in economic terms, include Southern China in this region. All these countries are quickly transforming themselves into free-market economies. The Southeast Asian region, with a combined population of more than 500 million, has more than half a trillion U.S. dollars in GDP, a size equivalent to Canada's GDP. It is a favourable area for investment opportunities which, I believe, you will not want to miss. On our part, we fully welcome Canadian investors.
In programming our development in the context of regional growth, Thailand has positioned itself as an economic centre in Southeast Asia. We have joined with Malaysia and Indonesia, our neighbours in the south, to create the Growth Triangle. With our neighbours to the north, namely Laos, Myanmar, and Southern China, we have formed a Growth Quadrangle. We have co-operated with six countries in the Mekong Basin for similar purposes. The emergence of these sub-regional collaborative projects is opening up opportunities for your investment. In particular, Thailand can serve as a gateway to Indochinese countries.
In the case of Thailand, the Thai economy has grown steadily at eight per cent per year during the first half of this decade. At the same time, inflation has been kept at four to five per cent per annum. With this stable economic condition, the government has undertaken various economic and social policies to bring greater efficiency and equity into the society. While allocating more of the budget for rural development, the government pursues a conservative fiscal policy that has resulted in a substantial fiscal surplus in the last seven years. This has enabled the government to reduce tax rates and to simplify the tax system. For the last three years, the government has stopped borrowing from local financial markets to finance the budget It is set to pursue a balanced budget policy for the years to come. We wish to continue the present growth rate with low inflation as economic objectives point towards the twenty-first century.
The monetary authorities also undertook measures of financial adjustment. These included the liberalisation of the foreign exchange control regime for both current and capital account transactions.
The financial institutions have been given more freedom to operate, while prudential rules have been tightened. We have opened up the banking system significantly by allowing more foreign banks to set up international banking facility units, or what we call BIBF In this connection, I am pleased to say that I have awarded a BIBF license to the Bank of Nova Scotia from Toronto last year, which is the first Canadian bank to start an operation in Thailand.
With BIBF, we hope to shape Thailand as a regional financial centre to serve the neighbouring Southeast Asian countries thereby helping them to develop their economies.
Last year, the value of foreign direct investment in Thailand totalled $2 billion Canadian. Of this amount, Canadian direct investment accounted for only $8 million Canadian, or a mere 0.41 per cent. There is still much scope for Canadian investors to increase investment in Thailand further.
The Thai government has a firm policy to encourage investment by both local and foreign enterprises, especially in telecommunications, transportation, and energy. Petrochemicals and environmental protection are also our priorities. As part of our policy to promote social development in the outlying provinces of Thailand, we give maximum tax privileges to those who invest in these areas.
I sincerely hope that this brief presentation will help your interests in investing in Southeast Asia and Thailand.
I wish to invite all of you to visit my country and to experience first-hand the investment opportunities in my country.
The appreciation of the meeting was given by John A. Campion, Partner, Fasken Campbell Godfrey and President, The Empire Club of Canada.
Justice is a word and concept which we all declare to be a pillar of our society. It comes in big packages because of the breadth of its application. But, in reality, justice is played out on a very small single-person stage. If power relationships do not have respect and gentle regard for humanness of all the participants, then justice will not be found. Justice has many historical precedents. Let me give you one from Thailand.
In the year 1250, the first kingdom of the people known as the Thais, was created at Sukhothai. The kingdom is the cornerstone of modern Thailand. The first kingdom's greatest contribution was to cultural and political matters. From that early period until today's date, the Thai people have been major contributors to the world of architecture, sculpture, religion, agriculture and not the least, foreign trade.
Thailand has a special and romantic place in our collective North American imagination: Siam, teak boats, Mrs. Anna Leo Nowens, teacher to Rama the fifth and the subject of The King and ! and the Bridge Over the River Kwai. These romantic notions have been replaced by the extraordinary development of Thailand over the last 20 years.
In looking at the beginnings of the Thai Kingdom, its foundation was justice. A famous inscription from 1250 which formed the philosophical basis of the first Thai state read, in part, as follows:
"In the time of the first kingdom, this land of Sukhothai is thriving. There is fish in the water and rice in the fields ... the King has hung a bell in the opening of the gate over there: if any commoner has a grievance which sickens his belly or gripes his heart ... he goes and strikes the bell ... and the King questions the man, examines the case and decides it justly for him."
Prosperity in trade and justice among the people sustained the first Thai Kingdom. It would have failed without the two forces in symbiotic relationship.
The same is true in all societies. But while international trade flourishes, it is more complex and difficult to sustain justice in our mechanically efficient world--but maintain it we must.
Thailand is a remote and romantic place for most Canadians. But, trade and the new Pacific orientation for Canada has brought our two countries into the same orbit. On behalf of our joint Clubs, I would like to thank you, Prime Minister, for speaking to us and reminding us of your ancient heritage and your modern dynamism.