Five services to lose protection
Foreign firms given chance to compete
The Commerce Ministry plans to remove five services on List 3 of the Foreign Business Act (FBA), opening them up to free competition to facilitate trade and investment in Thailand.
The five are accounting, legal services given to subsidiaries, space and facility rental, lending to subsidiaries and consulting services. The Foreign Business subcommittee will consider reviewing the business list annexe under the FBA in July to reflect changing economic conditions via government initiatives as the country works to shift towards Thailand 4.0.
The measure will let foreigners freely invest in these services without needing a licence from the Commerce Ministry.
Kulanee Issadisai, director-general of the Business Development Department, said opinions have been gathered from related government agencies, including the Board of Investment, the Bank of Thailand, the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand, the Federation of Accounting Professions and the Lawyers Council.
Most of the agencies agreed to allow the five services to have free competition.
"The resolution of List 3 of the review will be submitted to the cabinet for approval soon, and the department expects an effective date around September," Ms Kulanee said.
Previously, the department considered removing parcel express delivery services from List 3 as well. But Ms Kulanee said related agencies disagreed because some felt that Thai businesses were not ready for competition.
The FBA has three lists of activities in which foreign participation may be prohibited or restricted.
Activities in List 1 are designated as "businesses not permitted for foreigners to operate due to special reasons". Foreign companies are completely restricted from engaging in these activities.
Activities in List 2 are designated as "businesses related to national safety or security, or affecting arts and culture, traditional and folk handicraft, or natural resources and environment". Foreign companies may only engage in these activities with prior cabinet approval.
Activities in List 3 are designated as "businesses in which Thai nationals are not yet ready to compete with foreigners". Foreign companies must apply for and obtain a foreign business licence before taking part in these activities.
The FBA also limits foreign shareholding to 49% of a business.
The Department of Special Investigation is looking into two suspected companies -- a restaurant and a car rental service -- for which Thai shareholders may actually be nominees of Chinese shareholders.
Last year, the department took a random sample to investigate business nominee activities in tourism, restaurants, spas and fruit trading in 10 provinces that are tourist destinations.