US-ASEAN Business Council brings its largest delegation and first hybrid business mission to Bangkok

The US-ASEAN Business Council is once again proud to bring a strong delegation of 39 leading American companies to Thailand – the second consecutive year our annual Business Mission to Thailand is the largest delegation of the year to any country in Southeast Asia. Despite unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is remarkable to see that U.S. businesses continue to view Thailand as a top priority market in Southeast Asia. This year especially, the Council is incredibly excited to have organized this Business Mission in a hybrid format; due to Thailand’s expert handling of the pandemic, our engagements had both in-person and virtual aspects, further enhancing the experience of the Mission and drawing us closer to a sense of normalcy.

The delegation is co-led by Alexander C. Feldman, Chairman, President & CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council; Mr. Jeff Lehrmann, Managing Director of Chevron Asia South and the Chair of the Council’s Thailand Committee; and Ambassador Michael Michalak, Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director of the US-ASEAN Business Council. The Council was honored to have kicked off the mission with U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand Ambassador Michael George DeSombre. Through the first three days of the mission, the Council held fruitful meetings with Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha and select members of his Cabinet along with key government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy H.E. Supattanapong Punmeechaow, Minister of Industry H.E. Suriya Juangroongruangkit, Minister of Digital Economy and Society H.E. Buddhipongse Punnakanta, and Bank of Thailand Governor Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput. This evening, our delegation will enjoy a dinner discussion with former Prime Minister and Senior Stateman H.E. Abhisit Vejjajiva. Tomorrow, the delegation will meet with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health H.E. Anutin Charnvirakul in the morning and with new Minister of Finance H.E. Arkhom Termpittayapaisith in the afternoon. Further meetings are anticipated with key ministries responsible for Commerce and Tourism..

Thanks to successful efforts of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government, the COVID-19 pandemic’s health impact within Thailand has been minimized, allowing the Council’s Thailand based members to join our meetings in person while those based outside joined virtually.

Amidst and despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Council was able to meet with the Prime Minister and discuss critical issues including COVID-19 vaccine delivery, future energy resources of the kingdom, human capital development and digital inclusivity. The future of trade especially around the recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and how American investors and manufacturers in the Kingdom might tap the agreement to distribute products made in Thailand were also discussed.

“The Prime Minister’s message that his new cabinet is focused on ensuring that Thailand continued to be the premier destination for foreign direct investment in ASEAN resonated with our member companies and is reflected in Thailand’s continued rise to the 21st ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report this year,” said Alexander Feldman. “The size of US-ASEAN Business Council’s delegation this year is another indicator that the Royal Thai Government’s efforts are working and have the attention of American business,” Feldman continued.

“We hope that Thailand will soon open a ‘travel bubble’ with Singapore which will not only accelerate investment but also help to open tourism to international visitors and bring much needed help to a critically hit part of the Thai economy. It will also be a demonstration to the world that when the conditions are right, travel can indeed return,” Feldman added.

Reaffirming the delegation’s continued commitment to drive investments and strengthen capacity building programs within Thailand, Mr. Jeff Lehrmann said, “US businesses are committed to supporting Thailand’s ambition to be a favored investment destination. We look forward to working in partnership to strengthen Thailand’s competitive position in the region and beyond.” Mr. Lehrmann added that “the US private sector applauds Thailand’s COVID-19 response efforts and appreciates the opportunity to discuss how US companies can contribute to Thailand’s post-pandemic recovery. We support the Royal Thai Government’s implementation of short and long-term policy measures to capture new opportunities in supply chain transformation, regional energy connectivity and digitization as accelerated by the pandemic.”

Even as unparalleled challenges continue to test international economic landscapes, the Council is grateful and humbled to have organized its hybrid Thailand Business Mission with a dedicated cohort of our delegates to seek mutually beneficial engagements. “Throughout our mission, the message sent by the Royal Thai Government was clear: they are open for business, keen to work with the private sector, and welcome our input to work for the greater good of both sides,” said Ambassador Michael Michalak. “As Thailand progresses through its COVID-19 recovery efforts, it is our hope that the U.S. private sector continues to prevail as a trusted partner and resource to the Kingdom as it continues to promote investment in the EEC and beyond, drive innovation through Thailand 4.0, and prioritize sustainable development.”

During the mission, the delegation also met with the Assistant Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Secretary General of the Eastern Economic Corridor Office.

Companies participating in the Thailand Business Mission included 3M, Agoda, AIG, Airbnb, Apple, Bayer, Bell, BowerGroupAsia, Cargill, Cheniere Energy, Chevron, Chubb, Cigna, Citi, ConocoPhillips, Diageo, Dow, FedEx, Ford, GE, Google, Johnson & Johnson, Guardian Industries, Marriott International, MasterCard, Microsoft, MSD, Oracle, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Philip Morris International, Salesforce, Seagate, Stripe, UL, UPS, VISA, and VMware.

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For over 35 years, the US-ASEAN Business Council has been the premier advocacy organization for US corporations operating within the dynamic Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Worldwide, the Council's membership, more than 160 companies, generate over $6 trillion in revenue and employ more than 13 million people globally. Members include the largest US companies conducting business in ASEAN, and range from newcomers to the region to companies that have been working in Southeast Asia for over 100 years. The Council has offices in: Washington, DC; New York, NY; Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Manila, Philippines; and Singapore.