Businesses laud Saudi Arabia accord
The Thai business sector has hailed the agreement with Saudi Arabia to restore full diplomatic relations for the first time in more than three decades, believing it can bolster trade, investment and tourism between the two countries.
Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, expects exports to Saudi Arabia to grow to 2.2% of the total value, up from a marginal 0.6% of total exports or US$1.5 million last year, once Thailand resumes trade with Saudi Arabia.
"Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's visit to Saudi Arabia is considered a major event the private sector is closely watching. The visit may herald a breakthrough in revitalising the country's economy and trade," said Mr Sanan.
He said promising export products include automobiles and parts, food and processed food, machinery and electrical equipment.
According to Mr Sanan, Saudi Arabia is regarded as the centre of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has plans to reduce its dependence on oil and expand into other industries, he said.
Key import products for Saudi Arabia include industrial machinery, automobiles and parts, and steel and steel products, representing 27.5% of total imports.
In 2019, Thailand drew almost 40 million international arrivals, of which 700,000 were from the Middle East, but only 36,000 from Saudi Arabia.
"With the country's reopening and appropriate marketing campaigns, we expect the number of visitors from Saudi Arabia to reach about 150,000 a year, generating income of roughly 9 billion baht," said Mr Sanan.
The income prediction is based on average spending by Saudi visitors of at 90,000 baht per person in 2019.
Saudi Arabia used to be the largest market for Thai workers in the Middle East. Between 1970 and 1980, there were an estimated 200,000 Thai workers, both legal and illegal, working in Saudi Arabia, repatriating about 9 billion baht, he said.
"Restored diplomatic ties offer opportunities for Thai workers to return to Saudi Arabia, which still needs a great number of foreign workers, especially for infrastructure construction and renovation, housing projects, office buildings and other facilities to accommodate foreign investors," said Mr Sanan.