US hails 'soft diplomacy' with Thais

US hails 'soft diplomacy' with Thais

Envoy praises CSR success in kingdom

US embassy Chargé d'Affaires Michael Heath has affirmed the United States' commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as part of its "soft diplomacy" to strengthen ties with Thailand.

Mr Heath, also the acting ambassador, stressed that American companies in Thailand conform to sustainable business practices.

"[They are modelling] respect for labour and safety rights, practising good governance and investing in their people and communities, thereby demonstrating our commitment to corporate social responsibility," he said.

"Some examples include companies that built fences in Thai national parks to protect wildlife, cleaned plastic waste from rivers, planted mangrove trees along coastlines, and provided access to the disabled."

Monday saw such efforts hailed at the 2019 American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) CSR Excellence Recognition Award Thanksgiving Dinner, held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok.

Companies were handed awards for various categories, including Thai-US partnership, the national development campaign and CSR projects.

Mr Heath underlined the importance of CSR policies in contrast to the "hard diplomacy" of recent high-level meetings such as the East Asia Summit, the US-Asean Summit and the Indo-Pacific Business Forum.

"Sometimes, we underestimate the tremendous impact of soft diplomacy undertaken by you [American companies] through these kinds of CSR activities, creating a brighter future for people of both countries. You, as Amcham Thailand members, serve as unofficial American diplomats every day, building prosperity, trust and friendship between Thailand and America," he said.

When asked about the removal of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) tariff exemption, Mr Heath played down concerns and said GSP will be restored to Thailand after it improves conditions for migrant workers.

"Part of the requirement of the GSP is you have to meet the international standard of labour law. We have the US labour organisation filing a complaint in 2013 that migrant workers are not allowed to form a union. We feel that they are not earning as much wages as they should and that's making it less competitive for our companies," he told the Bangkok Post.

Amcham President Gregory Bastien said good governance can improve the economic relationship between the two countries.

"It can ease concerns among companies over any type of commercial issue, such as intellectual property and access to resources. We are also trying to set an example of environmental sustainability. Whatever standard we have in the US, we have it here," he said.

The Amcham event saw the People Choice's Award go to the WHA Group, for its wastewater management programme at the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate.

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