Thailand’s Prosperous and Promising Future

Kathryn Karol, Vice President of Global Government and Corporate Affairs at Caterpillar, and Ambassador Stuart Holliday listen to Ambassador Virachai Plasai’s views on the state of U.S.-Thai economic relations.

On October 23, 2018, the Meridian Corporate Council partnered with Caterpillar, Inc. to host a roundtable on U.S.-Thailand Economic Relations. This gave companies the opportunity to speak with His Excellency Virachai Plasai, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United States. Ambassador Plasai, previously the Ambassador of Thailand to the United Nations, began by referencing the long history of the U.S. and Thailand’s friendship, formally recognized 185 years ago through a Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1833. The Ambassador optimistically noted that trade had already been established between the two countries for nearly forty years by then.

Currently, Ambassador Plasai pointed out, U.S. investments in Thailand are growing as well as Thai investment in the U.S. Although small in comparison, Thai companies employ roughly 6,500 American workers, a trend he believed to be good for future growth for both countries. The Ambassador praised the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), a pilot project for economic development in Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard, with creating more opportunity for new projects with attractive incentives for investment.

Ambassador Plasai said 2018 is an important milestone year for the two countries, first set in motion by the joint statement made last year by President Trump and the Prime Minister which reaffirmed the shared commitment to security and economic prosperity. Prosperity, he claimed, should and will be built on the backbone of the private sector. Prosperity will be improved through the people-to-people relationships that already underpin the two countries. Thailand’s current economic trend of 3.9 percent annual GDP growth in 2017 (World Bank) can also improve the potential for prosperity. The ambassador acknowledged the political change in government a year ago and shifting geographic landscape from the transformation of the Bangkok area may appear cause for concern. However, he reassured, the Thai people have not changed and that although the countryside may be developing, Thailand will always be a friend to the United States.

Looking ahead, Ambassador Plasai highlighted the upcoming elections in February 2019, including the new legal framework that will be ratified. Thailand will also become the new chair of ASEAN. He emphasized the importance of this process for Thailand’s democratic institutions, which have been in place since 1932. The goal for these new laws, the Ambassador stressed, is for the people to have confidence the elections are fair and free. Recently, Thailand passed election rules that limit the power of large political parties with the hope to prevent any one party from getting an overly large majority. Ambassador Plasai said it will be the work of the new government to continue to set the agenda and the economic goals for Thailand.



Project summary

Thailand’s Prosperous and Promising Future | October 2018
Number of Attendees: 23
Regions: East Asia and Pacific
Countries: Thailand
Impact Areas: Business and Trade
Program Areas: Diplomatic Engagement
Partners: Diplomatic Corps, Private Sector