We want to be the gateway for Indian investors and travellers

Written by Rituparna Bhuyan | Huma Siddiqui | Updated: Oct 10 2009, 04:33am hrs
Thailand is Indias key trading partner. In an interview with FEs Rituparna Bhuyan and Huma Siddiqui, Thailands deputy prime minister Korbsak Sabhavasu talks about the economic prospects between India and Thailand. The opportunities for investment in both the countries are immense, he says, adding that the hurdles that businessmen from one country face in the other need to be addressed. Excerpts:

What do you think about the investment opportunities for India and Thailand

It is not enough. We are looking at opportunities to increase investments. At the moment, there is a lot of opportunity here. We want to be the gateway for Indian investors and travellers and want the two countries to share a good and long-term relationship.

We know that Indian investment in the coming years will focus on the infrastructure sector. Our capability as constructors has been proven worldwide and our knowledge in the sector is well known. We hope to be part of the (Indias infrastructure) drive. At the same time we also have a stimulus package. For the very first time, Thailand will invest $45 billion in the next few years, roughly about $15 billion annually, thus increasing employment opportunities for Thais.

How do you view the integration between India and the Asean

Within Asean there are some problems on integration. The five-year programme that we have is ambitious. In terms of Asean-India or Thailand-India, it is probably more complicated. I need to come here to learn more about Indian culture, laws, problems that Thai businessmen face here and want to understand problems that Indian businessmen face in my country. For example, had I not been here today, I would not have known what kind of problems Thai construction firms face. I will be talking to the minister for roads to get his view on how many Thai construction firms India is willing to give access to.

What kind of problems do Thai construction firms face in India

If a Thai construction company wants to bid for projects in India, it will have to create a joint venture. But for Indian companies, it is easier to come to Thailand. We are a bit more open than India. Though it is not a big problem but the issue certainly needs to be discussed.

What is your take on the India-Asean FTA

The services and investment part of the India-Asean FTA is still under negotiation. It is going to be tough as there are so many details involved. Hopefully we will get it done by 2010.

Are you happy with the progress of the India-Thailand Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) talks

Only negotiators can answer that. I have to leave it to the team. We can negotiate for years without any concrete conclusion. It is about give and take. I have not looked at the details on this. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Thailand at the end of this month. I am sure my Prime Minister will raise the subject and they will talk in principle on how to move on.

The Asean and the Thailand FTAs are a cause of concern for the Indian industry. What are your views

I think you will have to look at the bigger picture. Trade issues are always about taxes and the protection of the industry. The bigger picture is that you cannot avoid any businessman looking for the cheapest and the best deal. You have to be competitive. India has an advantage in this regard, as it has the resources, people, scientists, engineers and doctors more than anyone else. At the end of the day, there will be no trade barriers and it will be one world. There are concerns and these need to be solved but the private sector should know that you cant stop competition.

In the coming years, what will be the key avenues for India-Thailand cooperation

A key area is the tourism industry. We will have to think about how to link both the countries so that it is a win-win situation. Indian people will love to come to Thailand and vice-versa. Our relationship is strong. We may have ignored it in the past but the future looks positive.