It was wonderful to see many of you at our year- end events, the Eggnog get- together on December 8 and the Christmas luncheon on December 14. I am always heartened by the strong sense of community within the AMCHAM family and the dedication of our members and leadership to supporting the Chamber, collaborating, and driving the Thai economy further.
This has been a difficult year that ended on a devastating note with the passing of our beloved King, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej. The death of the King showed that the Thai people are united in their determination to follow in the footsteps of the nation’s father, living sustainably and extending a helping hand to one another. The words and actions of His Majesty will inspire many generations to come, and serve as a guiding light toward prosperity for the Kingdom.
Thailand’s economic growth has remained steady at around 3% and the World Bank just increased its forecast for 2017 to 3.2% as a result of the U. S. economic recovery. The government has taken concerted efforts to boost the economy by devising a strategy for Thailand 4.0, creating an investment fund for startups and, in recent news, considering liberalizing more services for foreign investment including telecommunication, financial services, and those related to innovation and advanced technology.
AMCHAM’S 60TH ANNIVERSARY
For the Chamber, this was a milestone year as we celebrated 60 years of AMCHAM in Thailand. Rather than having one big event to celebrate this momentous occasion we decided to make all of our signature events a little bit special to mark the anniversary. We also designed a 60th anniversary logo that we used to brand our materials and events throughout 2016. A number of long- standing members, former Board governors and presidents, and prominent Thai and American public figures spoke to us about what AMCHAM has meant to them and its enduring impact on Thai economy and society, and we gathered those sentiments into a 60th anniversary video that we showcased at all major events. Last but not least, the annual AMCHAM CSR Excellence Awards were made special by introducing four new awards: the ‘ best in class’ award for both multinationals and SMES, the U. S. Ambassador’s Award, and the Sufficiency Economy Award.
AMCHAM continues its effort to advocate for an improved and competitive business environment. In 2016 we published Roadmap for Growth: Policy Recommendations to Promote Confidence, Investment, and Job Creation in Thailand, a high- level policy brief outlining the path the Kingdom needs to take to ensure economic growth and prosperity. This brief has been shared with key government institutions and decision- makers in an effort to inspire a dialogue between the public and private sector on moving the country forward.
AMCHAM also held a number of events and meetings throughout 2016 with high- level representatives of the Thai government and public institutions to both gain a better understanding of government policies and provide feedback on how proposed changes might affect business. Some of the most notable officials AMCHAM interacted with were: the Minister of Tourism, Minister of Transport, Deputy Minister of Education, Deputy Director General of the Department of Intellectual Property, the Secretary General of the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission, and, most recently, the Director General of the Customs Department.
In order to consolidate advocacy efforts and provide even more leadership, a newly- hired Government Affairs Director will join AMCHAM’S team in 2017.
The Chamber saw similar levels of engagement and member participation in 2016 compared to the previous year. AMCHAM continues to be one of the most dynamic chambers in Thailand with 266 events held this year with the participation of over 7,000 attendees. Here are some of the highlights of the 2016 roundup:
• The number of AMCHAM Thailand members decreased slightly compared to last year, but the total number of Chamber members increased due to an ever- growing interest in the Myanmar and Lao chapters. • Event attendance is holding steady with close to 3,000 members attending various committee meetings. In addition, over 1,000 members were present for the monthly luncheons and the Independence Day Picnic saw an increased participation rate compared to last year. A further 450+ came out to welcome the 2016 Board and celebrate AMCHAM’S anniversary at the annual Governors Ball and a record 550 members attended the CSR award dinner. • The Corporate Partnership program continued to provide strong support to AMCHAM with 29 companies participating in 2016 and 19 already confirmed for 2017. In addition to providing steady support to Chamber activities, the Corporate Partnership program is an exceptional tool to increase your brand’s visibility and promote your services. If you are interested in a one- step solution to your marketing and Chamber needs please contact the AMCHAM office and sign up for the Corporate Partnership program.
CSR AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT
In order to better reflect the mission of the AMCHAM foundation, in 2016 its name was changed from the AMCHAM Thailand Charitable Foundation to The American Chamber Of Commerce In Thailand Foundation ( ATF). The Foundation has been supporting education initiatives in Thailand since 2004, but we do not see this support as charity, but rather as an investment in Thailand’s future, so we wanted the name of the Foundation to echo those values. At the same time, the Foundation’s logo was given a fresh, modern makeover that illustrates the cooperation between the U. S and Thailand.
Sixty- two companies received this year’s AMCHAM CSR Excellence recognition and four were given special awards for designing and implementing CSR programs that go above and beyond in supporting their communities. You can read more about the awardees on page 30 and in the insert.
AMCHAM continued its own community initiatives through the ATF. In 2016 we 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 Englishlanguage capabilities of Thai students. We also hosted a Career Camp for the graduating scholarship students to give them a leg up upon entering the professional world. Fifty- five scholarship students from 20 universities around the country converged in Bangkok to participate in practical activities designed to help them transition from the world of academia to the corporate world. The students heard from experts and professionals who shared their personal experiences and paths and offered valuable advice, visited companies and institutions related to their fields of study, and sat through mock interviews with HR professionals who offered feedback on their performance. I would like to thank Fedex for their continued sponsorship of the Career Camp and all AMCHAM members who took part in the event as volunteers, guides, interviewers, and mentors to these bright young people.
BOARD AND COMMITTEE LEADERSHIP
In 2017 the AMCHAM Board will welcome the following new governors: James Amatavivadhana of Minor Retail Group, Wail Farghaly of GM/ Chevrolet, Vira- Anong Chiranakhorn Phutrakul of Citibank, Ornkanya Pibuldham of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Steve Rich of Caterpillar. Their diverse backgrounds and experiences will contribute in devising AMCHAM’S strategic path for 2017 and we look forward to having them on the Board. You can find the composition of the 2017 Board on page 10.
We unfortunately have to say good- bye to the following Board members whose terms expired: Darren Buckley of Citibank, Waewkanee Assoratgoon of Yum Restaurants, Dhanakorn Kasetrsuwan of LaZ- Boy, Joe Mannix of United Airlines, and David Nardone of Hemaraj. Their contribution and support has been invaluable and we will surely miss them on the Board, but we hope to see their continued engagement with the Chamber through different avenues. Additionally, we extend our very best wishes to Joe Mannix who is leaving Thailand and United to enjoy his retirement with his family in the U. S.
One well- known face is re- joining the Board in 2017 and we are thrilled to have him back. Jeff Nygaard was re- elected to the Board after a mandated one- year break and was consequently unanimously elected to be President of the Board in 2017. I have complete confidence transferring this important role to Jeff’s hands as his experience and leadership were well- proven during his previous four years on the Board. You can read more about Jeff’s background, interests, leadership direction, and priorities for the Chamber on page 12.
It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Chamber in 2016. The success of AMCHAM is a result of a collective effort though and I am grateful to all actors who contribute to making it possible: the Board of Governors for providing direction, AMCHAM staff for the flawless execution, committee leaders for valuable content and programming, Corporate Partners for the much- needed support, Ambassador Glyn Davies and the U. S. Embassy for their cooperation, and all AMCHAM members who make AMCHAM the dynamic, inclusive, and engaging institution that it is.
I wish you a peaceful and prosperous New Year and hope to see you at the 2017 AMCHAM events.