Remarks by Ambassador Glyn T. Davies at AMCHAM’S October Monthly Luncheon
Thank you Judy, for the kind introduction, and to the AMCHAM Board of Governors and general membership for hosting me and my wife Jackie today, and for the strong collaboration AMCHAM and the Embassy have enjoyed for over half a century.
I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting some of you already in my first weeks in Thailand, but look forward to meeting representatives of all U. S. companies and Thai members of AMCHAM, and hearing firsthand from you about the challenges you face, and how we can help.
Like all good ambassadors, I come here today with an expert posse -- colleagues whom many of you know, who have heroically helped me come up to speed on Thailand’s local scene: Economic Counselor Kristina Kvien, Commercial Counselor Greg Wong, Agricultural Counselor Bobby Richey, Information Officer Melissa Sweeney, and Economic Officer Rachel Mueller
If I had to boil my mission statement down for you here today, I’d say that, during my tenure, I am committed to not only sustaining, but expanding the U. S.- Thai partnership that has endured for an auspicious nine generations. And that partnership is one based more than anything else on exactly what you do – economic relations, trade, investment, and commerce.
It is not a partnership born of great power rivalry, or military ambition, or colonial competition, or geographic determinism. It was born in the very simple and enduring desire of two independent nations – the United States and Siam -- to seek mutual advantage and advancement by binding their fortunes together.
It began with the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1833, which with the peaceful stroke of quill pens, established commerce as the original and enduring organizing principle of our relationship. I am confident that despite the transient political challenges and economic uncertainties that sometimes buffet us, the ties that bind the United States and the Kingdom of Thailand will endure. I mean to do what I can to keep it so.
How do we make sure of that? By working every day with our Thai friends and partners to develop opportunities and to deal with the challenges that extend far beyond the purely commercial realm.
We work with Thai authorities on everything from fighting corruption to urging stakeholder consultation on regulatory reforms. My team talks to Thai counterparts every day to level the playing field here for U. S. investments and products.
We also work directly with you on matters such as operational security through our Overseas Security Advisory Council ( OSAC), and on other issues like health, environment, and economic development. We collaborate with you on projects, including the Thai- U. S. Creative Partnership, your annual USA Fair, the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program, and AMCHAM Corporate Social Responsibility Awards.
I have myself dived into our shared agenda with both feet. Last week, I took my first trip to Rayong Province, where I visited three AMCHAM member companies: Star Petroleum - a Chevron partnership operating Thailand’s largest refinery; Ford Motor Company Thailand, which operates a state- of- the- art production facility exporting to all of ASEAN; and Jelly Belly, born from an iconic American candy company run by the same family for 117 years, which exports 10 million pounds of candy to 55 countries.
I was so impressed with what I saw in Rayong that I’d like to give special thanks to several of your members who hosted me on that visit:
• Bill Stone, who has instilled an impressive culture of safety and excellence at Star Petroleum;
• Mark Kaufman and his remarkable
team at Ford, who bring out the best in their talented Thai employees;
• Dave Nardone of Hemaraj industrial park, home to over 100 AMCHAM members; and
• Don Helton, whose marketing genius at Jelly Belly has them running overtime shifts to make candies that taste bad. I’m not kidding – they are making flavors like “dog food,” “stinky socks,” “earwax,” and “rotten eggs” - and they cannot keep up with demand!
The work these companies and indeed all of you do reminds me of the strategic importance of your work. The scholar Thomas Gray famously said, “Commerce changes the fate and genius of nations.” That is certainly true for Thailand, and true of your impact here.
U. S. companies like yours have been leaders in investing in Thailand for decades, and are recognized for giving back to their communities, providing good jobs for 250,000 Thai citizens, and pouring countless hours and resources into Corporate Social Responsibility ( CSR) projects.
I want to recognize the valuable contributions you are making towards building peace and prosperity in Thailand and the region. Your efforts to bring state- of- the art technologies and best practices on safety and training, and your close working relationships with the Thai people, are the foundation of America’s partnership with this nation and its people.
But I know it’s not all sweetness and light. While there are many success stories of American business in Thailand, I also know you face many challenges you face. I’ve read your Business Outlook Survey, showing Thailand has decreased in 14 out of 16 business climate indicators.
I know issues like corruption, lack of transparency, flawed customs procedures and poor IPR protection are concerns. I understand there have been troubling developments with respect to new laws and regulations affecting pharmaceuticals, alcoholic beverages, and even infant formula. There’re also longstanding market access issues with products such as U. S. beef and pork. We have an active dialogue on these and other trade issues under the U. S.- Thailand Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, as well as through bilateral meetings and exchanges.
I know too that many of your businesses operate regionally and globally. The Asia- Pacific region will grow dramatically, to 3.2 billion people by 2030. Two thirds of the world’s middle class will call Asia home. We want to support your efforts to be a part of the continued economic rise of this region, bringing high- value, high- paying jobs and technology.
Over the last ten years, trade between the United States and ASEAN in goods alone has grown by more than 60%. The United States is ASEAN’S third largest trading partner, and is the largest singlecountry source of demand for many ASEAN countries, including Thailand, when measured from a value- added perspective.
The United States supports ASEAN integration, including the ASEAN Economic Community, which will launch at the end of this year and, over time, make ASEAN economies stronger and more competitive. We are especially interested in reforms through ASEAN- wide initiatives that focus on regulatory barriers, investment restrictions, intellectual property theft, customs issues, lack of transparency, and digital economy policies.
Through APEC, we are working on issues from digital trade to women’s economic empowerment, negotiating with other member economies to liberalize services, and supporting small and medium enterprises. We aim to reduce and eliminate barriers to trade in healthcare products, and to ensure fulfillment of the commitment to lower tariffs on environmental goods.
The WTO can be another way to increase trade. The United States has been a leader in ratifying the WTO “Bali Agreement.” Earlier this month, Thailand became the 20th country to submit its letter of acceptance to ratify Bali, getting us closer to putting the agreement into effect. This deal will reduce global trade costs by 10% or more by improving customs and border procedures.
Of course, another very notable recent development is the conclusion of negotiations on the Trans- Pacific Partnership. The TPP covers nearly 40% of the global economy, and we estimate it will grow U. S. exports by more than $ 123 billion. It is a concrete manifestation of our rebalancing strategy toward Asia.
The TPP is a high- standard, ambitious, comprehensive and balanced agreement that sets a new standard for global trade. It is a landmark 21st century pact that not only eliminates or reduces tariff and non- tariff barriers across goods and services, but also covers a full spectrum of topics such as good governance, regulatory transparency, labor and environmental standards, state- owned enterprises, and the digital economy.
The result is a pact that will create and support jobs, reduce poverty, and raise living standards, benefitting workers, businesses, and consumers. If Thailand or others want to explore joining TPP, the U. S. and our 11 TPP partners would very much welcome that.
So these are just a few bilateral, regional, and multilateral tools that we have to support U. S. companies and make it easier to do business in Thailand and around the world. I’m open to hearing about how we can do more together, about business challenges, and about future opportunities.
Our Economic, Commercial, and Agricultural teams at the U. S. Embassy also stand ready to support your goals.
Once again, I greatly appreciate the support of the Chamber as we pursue shared objectives and work closely together on important initiatives and programs. If there is anything I or my staff can do to assist, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Thank you very much for welcoming Jackie, me and my colleagues here today. With that, I look forward to hearing your comments and questions.