New Zealand businesses keen on Thailand
Way back in the 1970s, New Zealand, alongside Australia, was involved in offering scholarships to students from Thailand and other Southeast Asian nations. Both countries were also aid donors to Thailand and took a keen interest in events within the region and what was at that time the fledgling Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Fast forward to 2015 and Thailand is New Zealand’s third-largest trading partner with two-way trade worth around 57.3 billion baht in 2014. That was more than twice what it was in 2005 when the two nations signed a free trade agreement (FTA).
In a recent announcement by the New Zealand ambassador to Thailand, Reuben Levermore, he said his country is hoping to continue its strong trade links and sees Thailand as the perfect base from which to capitalize on further business engagement with the rest of the region, especially with the advent of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) at the end of this year.
The ambassador said there were a number of industries in which Thailand and New Zealand could cooperate on joint venture operations to take a larger slice of the Asean market.
Mr Levermore was quoted as saying, “New Zealand exports a lot of food, and most Thai companies use our food products as ingredients. This is a good opportunity to cooperate or invest together in the food industry, which I believe has high potential to grow.”
The ambassador also believes the automotive industry is another of interest to New Zealand investors.
Major exports from Thailand to New Zealand include automobiles, polymers, air conditioners, preserved fish, and tyres.
At the moment representatives of Thailand and New Zealand are engaged in talks about enhancing the 2005 FTA. Of especial interest are the services and agricultural sectors, with rounds of talks designed to liberalise the agreements currently in place.
Mr Levermore said, “It would be good if tariff and some barriers on goods and services were removed.” Of course what may be good for the New Zealand side of the export equation may not be viewed the same way from the Thai perspective, and so, as with all trade agreements, the devil remains in the final details.
New Zealand also has a multinational FTA with Asean and the country plans to celebrate some four decades of involvement with the region by looking at cooperation beyond just trade. The areas of investment in general as well as education, tourism and culture are high on the agenda as far as New Zealand’s continued engagement with Thailand and the Southeast Asian region is concerned.