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Thai firms head to Saudi for official trade mission

Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce

The Thai Chamber of Commerce is scheduled to lead business delegations to Saudi Arabia for the first time in 32 years from May 15-18 to restore trade and investment relations.

According to Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the chamber, the business sector will join the official Thai trade mission led by Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai in visits to Riyadh, Al-'Ula and Jeddah.

Some 38 executives of leading Thai companies from different sectors including agriculture, food, energy, chemicals, real estate, construction materials, automotive, aerospace, technology, digital, gems and jewellery, tourism and services, healthcare, consumer products and construction are expected to join the trade mission.

The visit follows Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's visit to Saudi Arabia in January this year, and the subsequent agreement between Thailand and Saudi Arabia to fully restore diplomatic relations after a freeze of more than three decades.

According to Mr Sanan, on Monday the Thai Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia will hold the Saudi-Thailand Investment Forum, allowing the two countries' private sectors to build up cooperation and relations on trade and investment.

A memorandum of understanding is scheduled to be signed by the governments and private sectors of the two countries, including between the Thai Chamber of Commerce and its Saudi counterpart, to explore opportunities and the possibility of forging joint ventures.

Business-to-business meetings are slated for Monday afternoon to offer a forum for companies from various sectors of the two countries to meet and discuss business deals.

Saudi Arabia is Thailand's second-largest market in the region after Turkey.

In 2021, trade tallied 241 billion baht. Of the total, exports accounted for 53.9 billion baht, and imports made up 187 billion.

The Thai chamber expects exports to Saudi Arabia to grow to 2.2% of the total shipment value, up from a marginal 0.6% of total exports, once the two countries resume full trade relations.

Promising export products include automobiles and auto parts, food and processed food, machinery, and electrical equipment, said Mr Sanan.

The Commerce Ministry's latest study predicts bilateral trade between Thailand and Saudi Arabia will reach 280 billion baht in 2022, up by 20.3% from the previous year. Of the total, exports are expected to represent 54.7 billion baht, up by 6.2%, with imports valued at 226 billion, an increase of 24.3%.

The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Office is scheduled to join the trade mission, featuring the first EEC overseas roadshow since the pandemic broke out.

According to Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office, the agency wants to explain the corridor's potential to the Saudis, with targeted investment in high technology, R&D, tourism, and services, as well as easy access to the export markets of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Investors can establish a production base in Thailand to supply Asian markets or establish a regional headquarters here, he said.

Mr Kanit said Thailand aims to draw investment from all sectors of Saudi Arabia, including smart automobiles and energy, as well as cooperation on human resource development.

Saudi Arabia is seen as having high potential for overseas investment, with an investment fund worth more than US$1 trillion, he said.

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