How is the
balance of trade between Thailand and the United Kingdom?
is a misconception that the UK sells much more to the Thais than they sell to
us, but the reality is quite the opposite. Last year, for example, Thai exports
to the UK were almost triple UK exports to Thailand with Thai exports to the UK
amounting to 1,669 million British pounds.
British exports to Thailand only amounted to just under 600 million
generally, these figures also show that trade between our two countries is
bouncing back. Thai exports to the
UK are over pre-1997 levels, but UK exports to Thailand are not yet back to the
Did the effects
of 9-11 have much of an effect on the number of Brits traveling to Thailand?
doesn’t look like it. British nationals didn’t stop coming to Thailand.
670,000 British visitors came to Thailand last year. That is an increase of
seven percent. In fact, we have about the same number of tourists, or a little
more than the US, and more than any other European country. Only the Chinese and
Japanese have more visitors than we do.
generally, it does not seem that the events of 9-11 had the sort of impact on
the tourism or airline businesses here in Thailand that many people thought they
Please tell us
about the trend of British investment in Thailand.
“Post 1997, the UK is the third biggest investor in Thailand after Japan and the US. The investments are easy to identify: TESCO Lotus; Standard Chartered, which took over the Nakornthon Bank; and Orange, which is located in the UK although owned by France Telecom. The investment came from the UK.
large investments are not in industry, but rather in the service sector where
the Thai economy is moving forward. We have also had a number of medium sized
investments in the food processing area. The result of many of these investments
has been to increase Thai exports to the UK.
example, many of the British supermarkets now source a lot of their chicken
products from Thailand. Approximately 60 million British pounds of Thai exports
to the UK last year comprised goods procured here by TESCO and sold in TESCO
stores in the UK.
irony here is that lots of people in Thailand still think that the TESCO stores
here sell mostly British products, but they don’t. Most of the goods they sell
are Thai goods. While the people who shop in the TESCO stores in the UK are
buying lots of goods produced here in Thailand.”
Do you think
that TESCO has overcome the unpleasant and unfair publicity it received last
year, which claimed that hyperstores were putting a lot of small Thai shops out
think there is a much clearer understanding now of how much TESCO contributes to
the Thai economy in terms of employment, quality improvement and of course value
for money for consumers. TESCO has also made a real effort to become more
involved in the community. And it is significant that when Prime Minister
Thaksin recently spoke to the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce he said the
government’s objective was to raise the standards of the small shops, not to
try and restrict the large stores.”
In what ways
can British expertise help Thai industry?
is well placed to help Thai exporters deal with technical issues like health
regulations about entry into the UK and the rest of the EU. A number of
producers here in Thailand have been working with the British companies to make
sure their products satisfy UK and EU standards.
example of this would be the recent problem with Nitrofuran residues, a
carcinogen. Minute traces were
found in some consignments of chicken for export. Grampian, a privately owned UK
firm which has invested 50 million British pounds to produce chicken products
for export to the UK, has been working closely with the Thai authorities to make
sure the testing program here is up to the required standards.”
In what ways
can the Thais hope to gain further British investment?
“Transparency, transparency, and transparency. The Thai government has also recently set up a ‘One Stop Shop’ to deal with investment issues. This is a promising development. But it’s too early to tell whether that will address everyone’s problems.
the Prime Minister recently spoke to the Joint Chambers, he said that a year ago
foreign businessmen did not understand his policies, but now they had a clearer
understanding about the priority he places on foreign investment. Last year some
businessmen were concerned that the government would move against foreign
companies. But as the time has gone
on a more optimistic mood has developed reflecting the PM’s frequent
statements that he recognizes the value of foreign investment. ”
How has Prime
Minister Thaksin grown on the job?
is a lot more confident now. When he went to London in mid-May he had several
meetings with businessmen where he opened with a speech and then fielded
questions. He dealt with the
British businessmen extremely well. And again at the recent Joint Chamber
Luncheon he handled questions in a very authoritative manner. He is always
somewhat apologetic about his English, but no one has any trouble understanding
him or understanding what he is trying to say. So I think he’s just much more
confident in dealing with foreign businessmen now.”
Is there a
specific goal you would like to accomplish before you leave your posting in
would like to see the BBC World Service on FM in Bangkok 24 hours a day. Many
important Thai Ministers say they support the idea, but we need to identify a
spare FM frequency to use. There is no doubt that if an English channel were
available that just dealt with current affairs, science, the environment as well
as the news then people who wanted to improve their English skills could do so,
without charge, by listening to the BBC. It seems to me that this is quite
important especially as Thailand repositions itself to cope with e.g. China’s
recent entrance to the WTO. It is
also one way of promoting a capital city as a regional international center.
Interestingly, the BBC World Service has been available on FM in Singapore for
would like to see more good applicants for the British Chevening Scholarships.
These are fully funded for one year Diploma or Master’s degrees in the
UK and are offered in more than 150 countries worldwide. The program is for high
achievers: talented graduates and young professionals who have the potential to
reach positions of influence and become future leaders in their chosen field.
The scholarship will enable them to become familiar with the UK and gain
valuable skills, which will be of benefit both to them personally, and their
1984 the Chevening program has enabled almost 300 Thai graduates to study in the
UK. Working with British
Universities and businesses in Thailand to co-fund some awards, we are now able
to offer twenty to thirty scholarships annually in Thailand. Each scholarship is
fully funded: tuition fees, living expenses, return airfares are all included.
The scholarship carries no obligations after the scholar has returned to
is quite a prize. We are getting lots of good applicants but we think there are
more good potential applicants out there. So
we are working with the British Council to raise the profile of the program in
Thailand, to encourage more of the best to apply for a scholarship.
Qualification criteria are high. Successful
applicants will be 25-35 years old, with two years work, a degree of at least
GPA 3.0 and excellent English language skills.
application period is from now until 15 September. Short-listed candidates will
be interviewed in November and successful applicants will be advised in
December, in good time to secure a course at almost any British University
starting in October 2003. Further
information and application forms are available from the British Council (www.britishcouncil.or.th)
or the British Embassy (www.britishemb.or.th) and I would encourage anybody with
an interest in postgraduate studies to find out more themselves.
We aim to make the best even better.”