“Three years ago, China's first pilot free trade zone was established in Shanghai and garnered attention from quite a few Thai enterprises and organizations,” said Phaichit Viboontanasarn, secretary-general of the Thai Chamber of Commerce in China during an interview in Shanghai.“This year, the Chinese government proposed to expand opening-up and take a more active approach to making use of foreign capital, and moreover, Shanghai will act as the beachhead on the Belt and Road, further fueling the interest of the Thai government and the Thai business sector in investing in Shanghai. There is an increasing number of Thai organizations and enterprises coming to Shanghai to learn its experience and seek cooperation opportunities.”
Over the past few years, economic and trade cooperation between China and Thailand have witnessed continuous rapid growth with reciprocal support from the people of the two countries, as goods and services are shipped to each other's countries, becoming an indispensable part of lives of local people.
Shanghai full of business opportunities
As early as 30 years ago, Thailand began to invest in Shanghai as Charoen Pokphand Group became the first Thai company to enter into the market of Shanghai, followed by more large-scale Thai companies. Charoen Pokphand Group has been expanding its presence in Shanghai and operating in sectors such as agriculture, farm produce processing, food and beverage, textile, automobile, services such as catering, supermarkets, shopping plazas, convenience stores, schools and architecture design.
Chinese economy has grown rapidly for many years. Shanghai has been the financial center, economic center, international trade center and logistics hub of China, and now looks to become a cultural center.
“Thai companies see Shanghai as a modern metropolis full of business opportunities. Shanghai is an open city with a good infrastructure and a good management system for foreign investment, thus creating a convenient and fair business environment for foreign business people to do business in Shanghai,” Phaichit said, adding that Shanghai is setting an example for international metropolises.
As the Shanghai market holds a growing pull on foreign companies, the Thai Chamber of Commerce in China has played an active role in building a rapport between Chinese and Thai companies, facilitating trade, promoting trade related with the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as cultural exchanges.
“We have collaborated with local organizations, including the Shanghai Foreign Investment Development Board, the Council For The Promotion Of International Trade Shanghai, and the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, to receive delegations from the Thai government and business sector and get them familiar with the policies and the climate of China's economic development, especially Shanghai's, and thus they can seize business opportunities here,” Phaichit said.
Shanghai actively taking a part in Belt and Road Initiative
On Oct. 11, the Shanghai municipal government unveiled the“Action Plan for Shanghai to Act as a Bridgehead in the Service of the Belt and Road Initiative,” drawing close attention from the Thai Chamber of Commerce in China.
“The action plan will help the free trade zone become a new point of innovations in terms of policies,” Phaichit said.“It takes economic and trade cooperation as the area for breakthrough, financial services as the pillar, infrastructure construction as the priority, and cultural exchange and personnel training as the connecting tissues.”
The free trade zone platform brings Thailand's high-quality products to customers in Shanghai.It is also an important mechanism for Thai companies to enter into Shanghai and China. In the long term, Thailand’s strength in the entertainment industry and services industry will bring more economic elements to Shanghai and fit nicely with the direction of Shanghai's economic development. As the bridgehead on the Belt and Road, Shanghai will be a launchpad for Thailand's goods and services to enter into central and western China, and even dozens of countries along the Belt and Road. Phaichitsaid he believed the policies and plans will grant Chinese and Thai entrepreneurs broader business and cooperation opportunities.
Since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed, the Thai Chamber of Commerce in China has organized many delegations from Thai organizations and companies to visit Shanghai, hosted seminars as well as training sessions, arranged trips to visit the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone as well as flagship projects such as Zhangjiang High-tech Park and Shanghai International Automobile City in Anting.
China has engaged in cooperation with the countries along the Belt and Road on many fields, and Thailand is among them.“Thailand and China have a long history of exchanges, and Thailand has a geographic advantage,” Phaichit said.“Thailand is the center of Southeast Asia and the transportation hub connecting China and Southeast Asia. Making good use of Thailand's geographic advantage will deliver widespread benefits. Thailand is a key stop on the Belt and Road in Southeast Asia.”
Phaichit suggested the governments of the two countries should bolster and encourage the participation of non-governmental organizations, trade associations and enterprises in building an efficient platform of information, network and resources, and thus contribute to the cooperation among the countries along the Belt and Road.“The Belt and Road Initiative entails cooperation from all parties, and therefore the potential obstacles will stem from different cultures, custom, laws and business cultures. I found that hosting friendship-building activities, engaging in communication, interaction and exchanging views can bring the parties closer and buttress cooperation.”
Phaichit said he thought that coupled with growing cooperation on economy and trade, Thai and Chinese entrepreneurs will learn from each other, know about each other and understand each other, and they will reduce their cultural differences and work together much better.
More Thai companies gaining foothold in Shanghai
So far, the companies of all sizes from different sectors in Thiland have witnessed expansion in Shanghai as the Charoen Pokphand Group had done.Their business scopes cover food processing, energy, property development, investment management, financial banking, aviation, import and export, film and entertainment, and catering. The Chinese market has become the major market for Thai companies, and the promising market in Shanghai makes it the best starting point for Thai companies to make inroads into the Chinese market.
More Thailand companies in China mean more business opportunities.“On June 29, 2007, the Chinese government approved the establishment of the Thai Chamber of Commerce in China which is committed to promoting cooperation on bilateral trade, investment and economy, among others, in order to boost enthusiasm of Thailand companies and Thai people in investing in China,” Phaichit recalled.
The members of the chamber are engaged in many fields such as manufacturing and services. The Council of Thai Commerce of Chamber and its staff are working hard to build a bridge between the governments and the people of the two countries, offer business consultation and convenience, promote cooperation and help cement more prosperous and strengthened economic and trade ties.
“All we have accomplished is the result of the allout support and promotion from the government and related organizations,” Phaichit said.“I believe the abovementioned accomplishment is just the first step we have taken, and we will definitely see more Thai companies invest in China to write a new chapter.”
Phaichit said he envisions that Shanghai will continue to serve as the bridgehead on the Belt and Road and the pivot for Thai companies in China.（Dai Xianchao，Jiang Min）