What is the role and function of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT)?
KANG: The role, function, and mission of the JFCCT is increasing trade and the foreign investment in Thailand.
How competitive is Thailand within the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)? What does the country need to do in order to take a leadership role within the AEC?
KANG: To become a leader in the AEC, Thailand needs service liberalization and a lot of other infrastructure to be put in place. One thing I would point out, the AEC is about 600 million people in this region, and the size of the area is about half of China. So you can see that in the last 15 years, China has grown quickly, and now this is a key turning point for this area. We think Thailand will lead the AEC to become a stronger economic area. That's what we are expecting.
How is the JFCCT supporting entrepreneurship in Thailand?
KANG: Most of the businesses within JFCCT are run by entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is always one of the key points that we are supporting. It is important to us that we are supporting a lot of SMEs because that's the heart of economic growth and development. Big corporations have or can get the support that they need. They are stable already. A lot of SMEs, small and medium size businesses, need as much support as possible. We help them wherever we can.
What are the main concerns for foreign investors today?
KANG: These days, most of the people who come to invest in Thailand look at regional business and how they can find a regional headquarters here. I think that's what they're planning. Thailand would not be the cheapest country to invest in, but of course we are seeking out the investment with the best return. So I think Thailand will be one of the key places to be headquartered out of, for the operational headquarters in this region.
Where are most foreign investors in Thailand coming from today?
Don't look at Thailand as just Thailand, look at here as AEC, as a region.
KANG: Right now, I think the largest investors in Thailand will be the Japanese and the Americans, followed by the Taiwanese. After that we have a good amount of regional internal trade; there's a momentum there, the Malaysians or Singaporeans are all coming into Thailand.
The Chinese these days are different. Before, they wanted everybody go to invest in their country. You can see in the last 15 years, every country in the world, everybody goes to invest in China. Right now, they come out to invest in different regions. So the Chinese are also making substantial investments in Thailand today.
Which industries have competitive advantages in Thailand?
KANG: In Thailand, tourism is one of the major businesses. It's a natural resource. We need to ensure safety and security for the people coming because they are coming from a number of different places and a number of different cultures. So how can we ensure the safety of the people that come here? That's one issue we are discussing with the government and also the private sector. We have to work together.
So other than tourism, don't forget, Thailand is also one of the Detroits of Asia, the automobile industry is very strong here. We also have a lot of computer hardware production and also are the main exporter from here. A big part of the supply chain is here, and I always advise the Thai companies, not to just look at themselves in the Thai context. In the next two years, the AEC is supposed to come into effect.
Again, 600 million people with an area almost half of China. The internal trade and our internal supply chain will be reorganized and then that will be totally different. So don't look at Thailand as just Thailand, look at here as AEC, as a region. We have a lot of resources and we have the supply chain in place, so we have to prepare ourselves for the global market.