Thai businesses plan Saudi visit to cement trade ties
The Thai Chamber of Commerce is scheduled to lead business delegations to Saudi Arabia this month to restore trade and investment relations.
Speaking after meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai on Monday to exchange their views on future cooperation with Riyadh, Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the chamber, said the trade mission is scheduled to fly to Saudi Arabia on Feb 26 to visit Riyadh and Neom in Tabuk province in the northwest, a pilot location for smart city technologies and a tourist destination project.
The Neom city initiative emerged from Saudi Vision 2030, a plan that seeks to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service sectors.
Mr Sanan said the Thai-Saudi Business Council will be established soon to handle trade negotiations between the private sectors of the two countries.
According to Mr Sanan, the trade mission aims to focus on nine key areas: tourism; energy; labour; food security; healthcare; security; education and religion; trade and investments; and sport and culture.
Saudi Arabia is at the centre of the Middle East and plans to expand and develop the country without relying on just oil income.
It will be an opportunity for Thailand to export products including processed chicken, automobiles and components.
However, there are still some trade obstacles with Saudi Arabia, especially the agricultural standard certification and halal food certification, Mr Sanan said.
"The Thai private sector expects more cooperation and opportunities on human resource development in tourism, education, medical services, as well as promotion and exchange of cooperation in sports diplomacy and the joint venture investment on alternative and renewable energy," Mr Sanan said.
Saudi Arabia is Thailand's second-largest market in the Middle East after Turkey.
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, once the two countries fully resume trade.
Promising export products include automobiles and parts, food and processed food, machinery, and electrical equipment.
In 2021, trade tallied 241 billion baht (US$7.3 billion). Of the total, exports accounted for 53.9 billion baht ($1.63 billion), and imports made up 187 billion baht ($5.66 billion).
The Commerce Ministry's latest study forecast bilateral trade between Thailand and Saudi Arabia to reach 280.33 billion baht in 2022, up by 20.3% from a year before. Of the total, exports are expected to represent 54.7 billion baht, up by 6.2%, with imports valued at 226 billion baht, an increase of 24.3%.