Dear AMCHAM Members,
It is an honor to have been elected to be the Chamber President for 2016. Having spent last year on the Board under the leadership of Darren Buckley, I feel privileged to lead the Chamber this year and be the representative of U. S. business in Thailand. I follow a long line of distinguished business people who have served in this role, including several from Chevron.
I want to express my appreciation to Darren who stood as AMCHAM President for 2014- 2105 through some very challenging times, both politically and economically. During that period, the Chamber continued to deliver its strong messages of supporting trade and investment, good business ethics and a focus on Corporate Social Responsibility as a key differentiator of U. S. business.
SIXTY YEARS OF AMERICAN BUSINESS IN THAILAND
This year is the Chamber’s 60th anniversary – a very auspicious milestone in the Thai calendar ( Fifth Cycle). The Chamber was founded in March 1956 with eight companies and formally registered in February 1957 with an impressive 32 companies as members. The Chamber’s membership grew as high as 672 company members ( excluding non- resident companies) in 2014.
The past 60 years have certainly seen many changes in Thailand – explosive economic growth in the ‘ 70-‘ 90s, political instability, economic downturns in 1997 and 2008, a changing regional landscape with the emergence of major neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Myanmar, and the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community have made for exciting times to do business in Thailand.
To help celebrate this special occasion, late last year we launched our 60th anniversary logo and for this edition of T- AB Magazine we have reached back in history to highlight some of the major events and changes of past years. First, we managed to get in touch with 19 former AMCHAM Presidents and Tom Seale, AMCHAM’S Executive Director from 1982- 2001, to ask for a short message from them and an update on where they are today. It is always nice to be able to keep in contact with those who have served the Chamber and are part of its success.
The Chamber staff went through more than forty years of back editions of T- AB Magazine to search for articles that best described the founding and growth of AMCHAM. We reprinted four of these stories within, two written by two of AMCHAM’S founding members, Lewis Cykman and Albert Lyman, which provide a fascinating view of what Thailand was like post- World War II up until the 1980s. We also discovered an interesting article ( author long since forgotten) which provides a history and background on American Chambers globally.
However, sixty years is not all about the history, it is also about positioning the Chamber for the next decade and further. There are a number of challenging issues facing Thailand and its path forward, and the Chamber will continue to urge and support the Royal Thai Government on a successful economic path. With that in mind, several of our new initiatives this year focus on advocacy and the economic front.
First, the Chamber has merged the former Eastern Seaboard and Transportation and Logistics Committees into a Trade and Investment Committee. This new Committee will also support our manufacturing members in the various issues they face while doing business in Thailand. The mission
of this new Committee will be to work to enhance the trade and investment policy environment that allows U. S. companies investing and operating in Thailand to continually improve their competitiveness, to increase market access with the same level of playing field and to reduce or better yet, eliminate trade and investment barriers, while promoting relationships between the two nations. The Committee has already met and scoped out a number of activities for this year.
Concurrently, we are re- invigorating the Government Affairs Committee which had minimal activity in recent years. This Committee will be reformed with a focus on how to best help the Chamber and its Committees achieve their advocacy objectives. A major task of the Government Affairs Committee, and of the Trade and Investment Committee, will be in evaluating and informing members of the impact of the Trans- Pacific Partnership ( TPP) free trade agreement on Thailand and working to reach out to the Thai Government and Thai business sector for collaboration to encourage Thailand’s participation in this important Asia Pacific trade initiative.
AMCHAM AND ATCF FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
The Treasurer’s reports and financial statements for both the Chamber and the AMCHAM Thailand Charitable Foundation can be found on pages 28 and 32, respectively. The Chamber had another successful year ending with a surplus and was able to make a Baht 4.8 million donation to the AMCHAM Thailand Charitable Foundation ( ATCF). While The Chamber’s financials and membership stayed strong, most of the growth can be attributed to the Myanmar and, to a smaller extent, Lao chapters. Both of these Chapters showed strong growth in 2015 while Thailand company membership declined for the first time in recent history. However, thanks to another successful Corporate Partnership program year, the Chamber was able to meet all its goals in funding publications, events, socials activities and other programs.
Expenses were flat for the year, reflecting good financial prudence in the Chamber’s spending in uncertain times. We are also pleased that despite a small decline in the Chamber’s donations to ATCF, the Foundation was able to meet its annual goals of providing 199 scholarships to underprivileged Thai university students, provide a matching fund for Adopt- a- School projects and help fund the Thailand- U. S. Educational Foundation’s English Teaching Assistants ( ETA) program hosted under Fulbright. Due to AMCHAM’S funding, the program was able to expand to add two additional American ETAS in the Rayong industrial area.
AMCHAM’S full financial statements and auditors’ report has been emailed to you and can also be downloaded from the AMCHAM website. Please review the statements and attend the Annual General Meeting scheduled for March 24 where we will formally ask the Chamber’s membership to approve them.
Best Regards, Brad Middleton President