August saw one of the most horrific events in recent Thai history – a cowardly attack on innocent people designed to arouse fear and damage Thailand’s reputation and economy. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the people of Thailand and those who were affected by the August 17 bombing at the Erawan Shrine. Terrorism is the scourge of the 21st century and we commend the authorities for their efforts in apprehending those responsible for the attack. A swift resolution to the case goes a long way toward restoring investor confidence and a return to business as usual.
On a brighter note, it is with great anticipation that we await the arrival of U. S. Ambassador- designate to Thailand, Glyn Davies, who is expected to arrive in Thailand in late September. We have already requested the Ambassador’s presence at a number of AMCHAM events which are penciled in his schedule and will be announced once Ambassador Davies has arrived and completed the necessary diplomatic protocol.
We also wish to welcome Gregory Wong, the new Commercial Counselor of the U. S Commercial Service at the U. S. Embassy. The U. S. Commercial Service is AMCHAM’S partner at the U. S. Embassy which helps promote trade and assists with trade and investment barriers that U. S. companies may encounter. Greg has many years of experience in assisting U. S. companies throughout the region and we look forward to working with him.
Over the past year Thailand has been promoting its intention to transform into a digital economy, which would stimulate the use of internet for business and governance and digitize the economy in a number of key areas. While Thailand has a high level of mobile broadband penetration, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed. The recently announced digital economy master plan calls for the creation of five platforms to support the transformation of hard, soft and service infrastructure, promotion and innovation, and society and knowledge. Current plans also call for morphing the Information and Communications Technology Ministry into the Digital Economy Ministry to oversee these plans.
The AMCHAM ICT Committee recently completed their broad list of recommendations for the Royal Thai Government’s consideration as it moves along this innovative path. The ICT Committee identified legislative and regulatory issues and investment considerations which would move the digital economy plan closer to fruition. This edition of T- AB focuses on many of these areas and also provides an overview on some important recent changes to Thailand’s Data Protection regime and the proposed amendments to the Electronic Transaction Act.
This edition also provides a snapshot of U. S. business sentiment toward doing business in ASEAN reflected in the results from the 2016 ASEAN Business Outlook Survey conducted by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and the ASEAN Amchams. Despite a high degree of investor confidence, there has been a downturn in the level of optimism for ASEAN over the past few years. Over half ( 53 percent) of respondents said that ASEAN markets have become more important in terms of their companies’ worldwide revenues over the past two years, but this is ten percentage points lower than reported two years earlier. In addition, two- thirds ( 66 percent) of respondents this year expect ASEAN to become more important in terms of worldwide revenues over the next two years; while still high, this is 7 percentage points lower than two years earlier.
The downturn in investor optimism that was noted across ASEAN is plaguing Thailand as well. The survey has been tracking U. S. investor satisfaction with 16 aspects of the business environment from 2006 to 2015 and in the past five years investors’ satisfaction with the business climate in Thailand has decreased across 14 out of the 16 indicators, sometimes by more than 20 percent. In comparison, investor confidence has been steadily increasing in some of Thailand’s neighboring countries, such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia. For example, investor satisfaction with new business incentives offered by the government has risen by 25 percent over the past five years in Malaysia and decreased by 5 percent in Thailand. You can read more about this on pages 35- 37.
I want to remind members that coming up in October are the 2016- 2017 Board of Governors elections. AMCHAM members will elect eight members to lead the Chamber for the next two years, who join the other seven governors elected last year. Many thanks to the Nominating Committee for their outstanding work.
I hope you will be able to join us on October 14 at the Conrad Hotel where we will host the annual “Meet the Board Candidates” networking reception where you will have an opportunity to meet those running for the Board. I also urge everyone to cast your ballot at the October Annual General Meeting or to submit a proxy vote. More information on these two events will be forthcoming from the AMCHAM Office.
One of the Governors who would have been up for reelection, Khun Somboon Krobteeranon, announced his retirement from Visa in August and thus is stepping off the Board this month. I wish to extend my thanks and best wishes to Khun Somboon for his participation and support of the Chamber over his almost two years as a Board member.