Thailand and Asean as a whole remain a very attractive investment destination for US companies as the Asean Economic Community brightens the prospects of doing business in the region, says a business leader.
Bradley: Thailand could still improve
With duty-free trade in place, economic integration in 2016 will further promote intra-regional trade and investment, Matt Bradley, who took the helm as president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand (AmCham) in January, said last week.
In its 2012-13 Asean Business Outlook Survey, AmCham found 92% of American executives have a positive or very positive outlook on investment opportunities for their companies in this region.
"With some 600 million consumers living within the Asean trading bloc, the future should continue to look very bright for companies looking to invest in the region," said Mr Bradley, who is also Asean president of the US automaker Ford Motor Co.
American investors look for investment destinations that provide the business essentials of economic stability, strong potential for growth, high-quality labour and reliable infrastructure. Given these factors, Thailand makes a very strong case for US investment, he said.
US companies operating in Thailand employ more than 200,000 Thais and have provided more than US$45 billion in investment.
However, there are opportunities for improving the business environment in order to sustain Thailand's long-term competitiveness, Mr Bradley said, adding that US investors look for predictability in the regulatory environment and a transparent and consultative approach in drawing up policy.
US businesses are also hopeful that efforts will continue to focus on ways to expand the availability of skilled labour to support continued investment. This, in turn, should drive improvements in productivity.
"Efforts should be stepped up regarding the protection of intellectual property rights and reform of customs laws to international standards," Mr Bradley said.
"American companies are hopeful that the political stability of the last two years will continue."
Mr Bradley also said if Thailand is ready to make the commitments required to join the US-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership, then the chamber will welcome the country's inclusion.
In a related development, the California-based Western Digital Inc (WD) has reaffirmed its intention to continue investing to expand its hard-disk drive operations in Thailand despite the recent increase in the daily minimum wage.
"We will invest at a rate that effectively supports demand from our customers and helps drive the growth of a highly trained workforce well into the future, as our manufacturing processes and systems will be increasingly sophisticated," WD said in a statement to the Bangkok Post.
The company anticipates the hard-drive industry's unit growth of about 3% annually for the next five years.
WD reported a global market share of about 47% in its fiscal second quarter.
About the author
- Writer: Nareerat Wiriyapong
Position: Business Reporter