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Brussels, 15 November 2013
Booming Thailand consumer market offers a wealth of opportunities for EU businesses
Thailand is one of the most advanced economies in the ASEAN region, and helping European companies expand into its market could bring great benefits to enterprises on both sides. Therefore, stepping up business cooperation with this country will be the main purpose of tomorrow's visit to Bangkok by Vice President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship. He will be accompanied by 40 companies and business associations from 15 member states, nearly half of them SMEs. The combined turnover of these companies is € 96 billion and they employ nearly 500.000 people. Furthermore, the participating associations represent more than 20 million EU companies with a combined turnover of more than € 41 billion. This visit is part of the "Missions for Growth" to help European enterprises, especially small and medium sized businesses, better profit from fast growing international markets. During the visit, the Vice President will also sign two letters of intent with Thailand's high-level officials to strengthen cooperation and dialogue on SME policy and sustainable tourism.
EU-Thailand cooperation potential still largely untapped
Within ASEAN, Thailand is the second largest economy after Indonesia, and is among the most advanced economies in the region. Furthermore, Thailand is the EU's third largest trading partner within ASEAN and the EU is Thailand's third largest trading partner overall.
However, the trade of goods from the EU is still considered to be below its potential. Moreover, Thailand has a growing aspirational consumer market with an appetite for high-end products. It is therefore very important that the EU steps us its relations with this country.
Strengthening dialogue on SMEs and sustainable tourism
During his visit to Bangkok on November 16th the Vice President will first meet with Mr. Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce of Thailand, to discuss topics such as sustainable growth, industrial policy and the innovative potential of EU enterprises. Currently Thailand has many investment needs especially in the energy and construction sector and many EU enterprises are world leaders in this field in terms of state-of-the-art technology, sustainability and innovation.
Later during the day, in meetings with other high-level Thai officials the Vice President will sign two important letters of intent. The first letter of intent on SME Policy Dialogue will be signed by Vice President Tajani and Minister of Industry, Prasert Boonchaisuk. Thailand and the EU will pledge to work together to ensure a higher degree of cooperation between export-oriented SMEs on both sides. They will also exchange best practices in creating SME friendly legislation as well as on SME internationalisation. The second Letter of Intent will be on Sustainable Tourism and it will be signed between Vice President Tajani and Minister of Tourism, Somsak Pureesrisak.
As both Thailand and Europe have strong tourism sectors, cooperation in this field is also crucial and can be beneficial to both sides. By signing a letter of intent in the field of sustainable tourism Thailand and the EU will pledge to work together to promote sustainable tourism practices and increase the overall quality of their tourism services.
During the visit, an experience-sharing lunch will be organised by the European ASEAN Business Centre (EABC) for all participants. Later in the afternoon, European and Thai enterprises will also be able to participate in a matchmaking event organised by the Thai-European Business Association (TEBA).
Economic and trade data on Thailand (2012)
Population: 68.8 million (2012)
GDP, current prices: € 280.2 billion (2012)
GDP per capita, current prices: € 4352.1 (2012)
Actual individual consumption per capita: € 2255.5 (2012)
EU exports to Thailand: € 14.80 billion (2012)
EU imports from Thailand: € 16.92 billion (2012)
Stock of EU FDI in Thailand: € 14.0 billion (2011)
Inflation rate: 3.0 % (2012)
In 2012, the EU-Thailand trade amounted to close to € 32 billion. Thailand is the EU's third largest trading partner within ASEAN (after Singapore and Malaysia) and the EU is Thailand's third largest trading partner overall (after Japan and China). The EU is also one of the top foreign investors in Thailand.
Negotiating the new trade agreement
The World Bank has recently reconfirmed Thailand's status as an Upper Middle Income Country which means Thailand will lose its General Scheme of Preferences (GSP) treatment in 2015. This scheme allows developing country exporters to pay lower duties on their exports to the EU.
However, on March 6th, European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso and the Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra launched negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement. The aim is to conclude a comprehensive agreement that will cover tariffs, non-tariff barriers, services, investment, procurement, regulatory issues competition and sustainable development. Two rounds have taken place (May and September 2013) and the next round will take place at the beginning of December in Brussels.
This Visit to Thailand is part of a sequence of three Missions for Growth from 12 to 16 November 2013, to the following ASEAN countries: Vietnam, Myanmar/Burma and Thailand.