Keynote Address by His Excellency Dr. Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara at the OAV Bremen (German - Asia Pacific Business Association)

Keynote Address by His Excellency Dr. Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara at the OAV Bremen (German - Asia Pacific Business Association)

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Keynote Address

by His Excellency Dr. Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara

at the OAV Bremen (German - Asia Pacific Business Association)

Friday, 23 February 2024 at 19.50 hrs., the New Town Hall, Bremen

 

Mr. Thomas Kriwat (โทมัส คริวัต),

Chairman of the German - Asia Pacific Business Association, Bremen,

Dr. Andreas Bovenschulte (อันเดรอัส โบเวินชุลเทอ)

Mayor and President of the Senate of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen,

Professor Dr. Norbert Lammert (นอร์แบร์ต ลัมเมิร์ท)

Chairman of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and Former President of the German Bundestag 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

It is a great pleasure for me to be here in Bremen at this 123rd OAV   Stiftungsfest (โออาร์เฟา) (ชะ-ติฟ-ตุงส์-เฟสต์).  It is a particular privilege for me because over 15 years have passed since the last Guest of Honour from Thailand, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry Suwit Khunkitti (สุวิทย์ คุณกิตติ),  represented our kingdom here in 2008. 

We are grateful to the visionary Bremer merchants who, as members of the Hanseatic League, had the foresight to recognize the vast growth potential in our region, which you regard as the Far East. We are also most appreciative to OAV (โออาร์เฟา) Bremen, which has helped build a long-lasting bridge connecting Germany to the Asia-Pacific. This has been achieved through your sharing of knowledge on the Asia-Pacific’s economic significance, along with your advocacy of tolerance, intercultural understanding and peaceful coexistence.

And Thailand is pleased to play a part in extending and strengthening this bridge to the thriving ASEAN region which, as a group, is currently the world’s 5th largest economy and is projected to become the 4th largest by 2030.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last month, I had the honour of welcoming the German Federal President, Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and his spouse, together with a German business delegation, during his official visit to Thailand as guest of the Royal Thai Government. The Federal President’s message was loud and clear: “Germany and Thailand are entering a new era of cooperation towards a sustainable growth path”.

He emphasized that our two countries are not only interlinked but, more rather, intertwined by wide-ranging cooperation in trade and investment, education, and sustainable development. We are bound together by shared values and aspirations for peace and security. Our 162 years of close and cordial diplomatic relations is deeply rooted in our dynamic business ties, which cover key fields such as railways, agriculture and the automobile industry. We have also forged a multidimensional partnership on climate change and continue to enjoy close people-to-people contacts.

So, there is certainly a very positive momentum in our relations at the moment, which we must all continue to sustain. Following the German Federal President’s successful visit to Thailand in January and my current visit to Bremen this month, I am delighted that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin will pay an official visit to Berlin on 13 March. Many more high-level exchanges between Thai and German government representatives and business delegations are in the pipe-line to propel this new era of Thai-German relations in the months to come.

This is an opportune time for the strengthening of our cooperation, particularly since Thailand today is back on the democratic path. The assumption of office of a newly-elected government in September 2023, marked a new chapter in our political history. We believe that the restored political stability has resulted in a strong government, well-positioned to push forward its key policies. Such stability also provides an environment conducive for trade and investment with our partners. Since taking office, Prime Minister Srettha has continuously emphasized that Thailand is now open for business, and there has never been a better time to invest in Thailand.

Thailand is back, not only politically but also economically. The Thai economy remains resilient and is steadfastly rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic. The government’s economic priority is to reinvigorate growth in a manner that is sustainable by placing people at the centre. Emphasis is placed on diversifying the economy towards a new growth path that is green, innovation-driven, and community based.

Amid increased geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges, the Thai Government places proactive economic diplomacy at the forefront in order to create economic partnership. So today, I would like to share with you some key target areas for cooperation between Thailand and Germany in line with Thailand’s new growth path.

 

First and foremost, Thailand attaches utmost importance to meeting the most daunting challenge facing us: Tackling Climate Change. As a recent member of the Climate Club, Thailand is determined to work with Germany so that we can achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2065. We aim to phase-out coal-generated power by 2050 and increase the ratio of renewable energy in our energy production to 50 percent by 2040. We will also safeguard forests and enhance carbon sink by increasing green areas to cover 55 percent of our total land areas by 2037, equivalent to an annual removal of 120 million tons of CO2.

We were delighted that President Steinmeier and his business delegation visited the 45 megawatt Hydro-Floating Solar Hybrid power plant at Sirindhorn Dam in Ubon Ratchathani Province. They were able to see with their own eyes Thailand’s strong determination to deliver on our energy transition pledge. Indeed, we plan to set up
15 more of these floating power plants on other dams, with an expected renewable energy production capacity of 2,750 megawatts by 2037.
As one of the first countries to announce the “Utility Green Tariff Scheme”, Thailand is, in effect, ensuring that all investors coming to Thailand will have convenient, affordable and completely traceable access to 24/7 renewable energy from day one.

Along with Germany, Thailand is one of the world’s top-ten automobile producers, with an expansive ecosystem and resilient supply chain, topped up with government tax and non-tax incentives. We aim to champion the development of the Electric Vehicle (EV) industry in the region. At present, we can boast the highest EV Adoption rate in Southeast Asia, and our EV markets have registered the second biggest growth in Asia after China.

Just two days ago, our government has approved incentives for companies to transition their commercial fleets of large trucks and buses to battery EV through cash grants for EV battery cell manufacturers,
as well as through special tax deduction, effective until December 2025. This policy will support Thailand’s plan to reduce pollution emission from transportation and manufacturing sectors.

Thailand is already home to 16 top EV manufacturers, with more in the pipeline, including production lines for battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrids by Mercedes-Benz and BMW. We are also working closely with the German-Thai Chamber of Commerce (GTCC) to promote green hydrogen to Thai businesses and we welcome more engagements with our German friends in this matter.

Like Germany, Thailand values sustainability and green transition. Based on the Sustainable Development index 2023, we currently rank first in Southeast Asia. Our firm commitment to sustainability is underpinned by our national framework, the Bio-Circular-Green Economy Model. It is therefore clear that investing in Thailand is an investment in a greener and better future.      

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Government’s goal is to put Thailand back on the global radar screen, including that of Germany. To achieve this, our focus is on accelerating Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with key partners to open new markets and deepen existing trade ties.

At present, Thailand has 14 FTAs in effect with a total of 18 countries/economies. This includes the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, the world’s largest trade bloc. Earlier this month, we concluded an FTA with Sri Lanka, which will bring our tally to 15 FTAs. Going forward, we will continue our efforts to finalise the 11 ongoing FTA negotiations. Most importantly, we aim to conclude FTA negotiations with the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), comprising Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, within this year and the Thai-EU FTA by 2025.

We are excited by the possibility of a Thai-EU FTA, which could potentially raise the EU’s exports to Thailand by over 40 percent and expand Thailand’s exports to the EU by over 25 percent. It could also boost Thai-EU and Thai-German investments to support supply chain resilience between our two regions. Moreover, such FTAs will enhance relevant standards in Thailand, which, in turn, will bring about a more attractive environment for investments from EU countries. We count on Germany’s support for the expeditious conclusion of the Thai-EU FTA negotiations as planned.

The Thai Government also aims to improve the investment climate by enhancing ease of doing business to facilitate foreign investment. We will review and remove unnecessary rules and regulations, implement e-government services, improve digital trade and e-payment system, uplift business data and cybersecurity, and keep corporate tax at an affordable rate. The Government further plans to upgrade both tax and non-tax incentives especially tailor-made for targeted industries. This will enable foreign investors to swiftly set up their businesses, and improve visa facilitation.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Seamless connectivity is key to unlocking our potential and promoting shared prosperity. Thailand’s strategic location makes us well-positioned to connect both within and beyond the region. We continue to actively promote comprehensive connectivity, both in terms of software, notably regulations and standards, as well as hardware. Such connectivity is vigorously implemented through existing regional frameworks, such as ASEAN, APEC, ACMECS, ACD, and BIMSTEC.

The Government prioritizes projects aimed at improving the country’s connectivity and infrastructure, including a comprehensive upgrade of main airports throughout the country. Furthermore, Thailand’s mega project to develop a “Landbridge” connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans is underway. With the concept of “one port, two sides”, the Landbridge will help reduce maritime transportation time between the two Oceans and ensure the seamless flow of goods and services. It will contribute to regional competitiveness and shared prosperity in Southeast Asia and the world at large.

In this regard, we seek to explore a potential partnership with the EU’s Global Gateway. As we are at Bremen, one of the largest ports in Europe, I would like to invite you all, distinguished members of the OAV (โออาร์เฟา) Bremen -- German investors and experts in port management -- to join us in realizing this aspiration.

Allow me to add that Thailand aims to harness our strong digital infrastructure and tech-savvy population to make digital economy a new engine of growth for the Thai economy. We have been able to attract major players in the areas of data center, cloud, AI and other high-tech industries, such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Huawei and NTI, who have recently announced plans to invest in Thailand.

Based on the recent computer chip shortage and supply chain disruptions in hi-tech products, the Government has strengthened Thailand’s electronic supply chain to support the growth of new industries. As home to a production facility of Infineon, the leading German chip maker, we welcome greater investment and partnership with Germany in smart electronics and digital areas. This would further strengthen the regional and global digital infrastructure, which is instrumental for a strong and robust digital economy.

Meanwhile, Thailand continues to strengthen the rule of law and regulatory frameworks to ensure that foreign investors are adequately protected. In the longer term, we are preparing for our potential membership to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, as part of our endeavour to upgrade our economic policies and infrastructure in line with the highest standards.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My third and final point for future Thai-German cooperation is related to the vital area of human resources development. Germany’s excellent vocational training system has long been mainstreamed into the Thai education system. However, we need to promote closer collaboration with German businesses based in Thailand to develop the skills of Thai manpower in order to harness the tangible benefits, both for students and businesses.

As a strong advocate of human-centred development, Thailand highly values the close link between business and human rights. We are proud to be the first country in the Asia-Pacific to successfully develop and adopt a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in 2019.  We are now implementing our 2nd National Action Plan through engagement of multi-stakeholders and capacity-building activities in the region and beyond. Most importantly, we seek to work with German businesses in compliance with Germany’s Supply Chain Due Diligence Act to accelerate global action for sustainable development, human rights, and environmental, social and governance (ESG).

 

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have stood in the way of your main course for too long now.  But, as we gather here this evening, we are reminded of the valiant trail blazed by the visionary Bremer merchants of the Hanseatic League who set out to explore the vibrant Asia-Pacific as an area of new opportunities. Their wisdom is best captured in an old German motto that the citizens of Bremen know well:

Buten un Binnen --  Wagen un Winnen” (บูเทิน อุน บินเนิน – วาเกิน อุน วินเนิน)   One has to be ready to take risks, both at home and abroad, in order to gain fortune.

Today, I believe that their wisdom has been justified many times over as demonstrated by the mutually beneficial trade ties between our peoples over the years. Let us continue to join hands in cooperative endeavours leading to greater growth and prosperity for all.

I thank you.  Vielen Dank (ฟี เลิน – ดั๊ง).

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