Dear AMCHAM Members,
I hope you all enjoyed the festive season and new year holidays, and wish you and your families good health, happiness and success in 2016!
The Thai economy in 2015 underperformed again due to a combination of external and internal factors. But the measures implemented by the Thai government’s new economics team post September will hopefully provide some fi scal stimulus uplift in 2016 amidst a backdrop of continued economic softness globally except for the U. S., where the Fed recognized the U. S. economy’s recovery and fi - nally lifted U. S. interest rates in December.
2016 is a momentous year for AMCHAM as the Chamber celebrates its 60th anniversary of being the voice of American business in Thailand. We have come a long way since 1956 when a handful of Americans decided that the already fl ourishing American business community in Thailand needed an advocate. The Chamber was born out of a genuine need for representation and has since grown to represent over 700 American, Thai, and multinational businesses to become one of Thailand’s largest and most infl uential foreign business chambers.
ADVOCATING FOR A COMPETITIVE THAILAND
AMCHAM invested signifi cant eff ort into advocacy in 2015. With the considerable help of our Committees, the Chamber has been working on a comprehensive white paper on how to improve Thailand’s competitiveness, including both general and industry- specifi c recommendations.
In a year when the ASEAN Economic Community ( AEC) became a reality and negotiations on the Trans- Pacifi c Partnership ( TPP) were fi nally concluded, competitiveness was at the forefront of everybody’s mind. Thailand’s neighbors are liberalizing their markets and off ering benefi ts beyond just cheap labor in the form of business and tax incentives. As a result, Thailand’s position as Southeast Asia’s best investment destination has become less clear. The ASEAN Business Outlook Survey 2016, conducted by Amchams in all 10 ASEAN countries, indicated that Thailand’s competitiveness ranking has slipped in 14 out of the 16 key indicators.
AMCHAM’S competitiveness paper will address general shortcomings, as well as a number of industry- related issues in the following fi elds: automotive, banking, customs, energy, food and agribusiness, healthcare, HR, ICT, taxation, intellectual property rights, and tourism. The paper will be completed in the fi rst quarter of 2016 and used as an advocacy tool in meetings with Thai government institutions and offi cials.
Delivering high- quality and relevant services and programs to members is the Chamber’s priority. In 2015 we continued to serve our growing and increasingly diverse membership body through 334 events, meetings, and programs. Here are the membership highlights for 2015:
• While the number of AMCHAM Thailand members decreased slightly compared to last year, the total number of Chamber members increased due to growing interest in the Myanmar and Lao chapters. • Event attendance was very good, with over 3,000 members attending various committee meetings. In addition, close to 2,000 members were present for the monthly luncheons and as many gathered for the Independence Day Picnic, while a further 400 dressed up and danced the night away at the very successful Governors Ball. Thank you!
• The Corporate Partnership program continued to provide strong support to AMCHAM with 29 companies participating in 2015 and 27 already confirmed for 2016. If you are interested in a one- step solution to your marketing and Chamber needs and want to support AMCHAM during the milestone 60th anniversary year, please contact the AMCHAM office and sign up for the Corporate Partnership program. • AMCHAM’S chapters continued to perform well. Eastern Seaboard events grew in popularity and fostered stronger cooperation between the foreign chambers in Thailand while the Lao Chapter doubled in size and increased the number and quality of events it held.
2015 also saw continuing challenges at the Chamber. While we celebrate the fact that the Chamber grows more and more diverse, we have noticed a decrease in the number of U. S. citizen company representatives, which is currently at 18% of the membership. The Chamber is working to adapt and remain relevant to this diverse membership base while also continuing to be the clear voice of American Business in Thailand.
Also notable in 2015 was a decline in the participation rate in certain committee meetings. This might be due to event fatigue as we organized over 300 events last year, but AMCHAM committees are the backbone of the Chamber and our committee leaders work very hard to put together interesting and relevant meetings, so I encourage you all to try to find time to attend more of these meetings in 2016.
One more thing, it is becoming increasingly difficult to source and confirm speakers for monthly luncheons. We strive to feature high profile speakers at AMCHAM’S signature monthly luncheons and we would appreciate your help in recommending and liaising with potential speakers in 2016.
However, on a brighter note, the Chamber remains fiscally very sound and ended the year with an over Baht 5 million surplus. This surplus will go a long way toward supporting the AMCHAM Thailand Charitable Foundation ( ATCF) and the continued investment in Thai education. The Corporate Partnership generated revenue of more than Baht 10 million which assured the smooth functioning of the Chamber.
CSR AND COMMUNITY INVESTMENT
AMCHAM members have fully embraced corporate social responsibility as a core value, which was evident in the record number of companies ( 62) that were recognized at the ninth AMCHAM CSR Excellence awards in November. We were particularly pleased to see the significant number of SMES who engaged in CSR despite their limited resources.
The Chamber also engaged in community initiatives through ATCF’S programs that support and promote education. In 2015 ATCF provided scholarships to 200 deserving but underprivileged Thai university students, matched Baht 1 million in donations to the Adopt- a- School program, and sponsored 22 American English Teaching Assistants ( ETAS) to improve the English- language capabilities of Thai students. ATCF also hosted two scholarship student camps for 71 new and 58 graduating students to help them make the most out of their scholarships and ease their entry into the professional world.
The Adopt- a- School program invested more than Baht 5 million into needy schools across Thailand, with Baht 1 million of those funds provided by ATCF as a matching donation. Baht 3.5 million was donated to the Thai- U. S. Educational Foundation ( Fulbright) to support the ETAS. Most of the funds were raised at AMCHAM events with the biggest fundraisers being the silent auction at the Governors Ball, the charity raffle at the Independence Day Picnic, and the sports tournaments. These fundraising efforts were spearheaded by AMCHAM members and volunteers through the various committees and we thank them wholeheartedly for their engagement and dedication.
BOARD OF GOVERNORS AND COMMITTEES
The 2016 Board of Governors has a few new faces: Herman Ehrlich from Conrad, Dale Lee from COFFEEWORKS, Parnsiree Amatayakul from IBM, and Teera Phutrakul from JTFP. Their varied backgrounds and experiences will provide a fresh perspective and we look forward to their participation. We say goodbye to Jeff Nygaard and Douglas de Weese whose terms expired in 2015. We are grateful for their leadership and will miss the energy they brought to our 7 am meetings and many events! You can find the composition of the 2016 Board of Governors on page 10.
Allow me to recognize everybody who made 2015 another successful year: the committee leaders for their unwavering commitment ( you can read about their successes on page 30), the members of the Board of Governors for their invaluable contribution and for providing direction to the Chamber, the officers at the U. S. Embassy and U. S. Commercial Service for their significant engagement and assistance, especially Ambassador Glyn Davies, and all of you who make the Chamber the dynamic institution that it is.
Lastly, as my tenure as President of the AMCHAM Board of Governors ends in 2015, I would like to thank you for your trust and support these past two years. It was an honor and an incredibly enriching experience to serve as AMCHAM’S President. I now leave you in the capable and dedicated hands of Brad Middleton who will lead the Chamber in 2016. If you would like to learn more about Brad and his plans for the Chamber in 2016, read the interview on page 12 or attend one of the AMCHAM networking events in 2016 to meet him in person.
Best Regards, Darren Buckley President