Speeches : Keynote Address by Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs at the Opening Ceremony of Innovate Canada - ASEAN, 9 September 2019, Bangkok news3

Speeches : Keynote Address by Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs at the Opening Ceremony of Innovate Canada - ASEAN, 9 September 2019, Bangkok

Keynote Address by
H.E. Mr. Vijavat Isarabhakdi
Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
at the Opening Ceremony of Innovate Canada-ASEAN
9 September 2019, 09.05 hours
Ballroom, Marriot Bangkok The Surawongse
 
* * * * * * *
 
Mr. Wayne Farmer, President of the Canada-ASEAN Business Council,
Mr. John Stevens, President of the Thai-Canadian Chamber of Commerce,
Distinguished Members of the Canada-ASEAN Business Council and of the Thai-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, 
Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
It is a great pleasure for me to be invited to speak at the Innovate Canada-ASEAN Forum. As a former Thai Ambassador to Canada, I always welcome the opportunity to attend a Canadian event, constantly hoping that there will be Poutine and Beaver Tails served, but I always seem to come back empty handed. 
 
I must add that back in March 2015, one of my first duties as Ambassador to Ottawa was to travel to Bangkok to attend and address the 2nd Canada-ASEAN Business Forum and the 1st Canada-Thailand Business Meeting. At that time, I could feel the vibes and the enthusiasm of our two private sectors for expanding their networks of collaboration.
 
I am, therefore, delighted to see this morning representatives of leading companies from Canada and ASEAN member countries gathering in this room to exchange ideas on how both sides can further enhance their partnership in the domain of innovation for mutual benefits.
 
This year’s event is taking place at a very opportune moment as Thailand is hosting the 51st ASEAN Economic Ministers’ (AEM) Meeting.  One of the most important agendas for the Meeting is to discuss how ASEAN and its dialogue partners, including Canada, can move forward in promoting closer economic ties and expanding business opportunities. We can therefore draw inspiration and feed on the momentum that is generated by this high-level gathering. 
 
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Since the establishment of our diplomatic relations in 1961, Canada and Thailand have enjoyed a cordial and cooperative relationship, and our bilateral ties have continued to deepen and expand over the past decade. Thailand is Canada’s second largest trading partner in ASEAN while Canada ranks 32nd worldwide among Thailand’s trading partners. Last year, the two countries enjoyed bilateral trade which amounted to around 2.6 billion US dollars, but there is significant room for improvement, given the great diversity of our two economies. Meanwhile, the investment portfolios between the two countries are still relatively small at 82.5 million US dollars with huge potential for expansion. 
 
Over the past 5 years, Thailand has overhauled our industrial policy to transform the economy into a value-based one, driven by technology and innovation, in line with the Thailand 4.0 paradigm. The Government also aims to attract more foreign investment through the development of the Eastern Economic Corridor, or EEC, and the promotion of 10+2 industries. In addition, the Government attaches high importance to sustainable development and has been pursuing the goal of becoming a Bio-Circular-Green Economy, an area in which Canada excels. 
 
At the same time, the Thai Government continues to create an enabling and favourable business and investment environment by streamlining business regulations and facilitating the investment approval process, with a view to enhancing ease of doing business in Thailand. 
 
In my view, and from my personal experience, there is so much that Canada and Thailand can do together.  Both countries can harness our respective strengths, which are many, and expand collaboration in various sectors for our mutual benefit. With Canada being one of the global leaders in science, technology, and innovation, it makes complete sense to try to connect Thailand’s growing demand for technology advancement with Canada’s leading-edge technologies. There are tremendous opportunities out there for Canadian companies to seek and to seize. I trust that today’s dialogue could provide a valuable platform for both sides to explore these business opportunities and deliberate on the direction of our future cooperation. 
 
Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
As far as the region is concerned, I hope you will view Thailand as a key player and an entry point for Canada to engage with the ASEAN Community of 10 countries. Since ASEAN-Canada relations were established in 1977, our partnership has grown steadily and widened into diverse areas of mutual interests, ranging from political and security cooperation, to trade and investment ties and socio-cultural dimensions. Last year, ASEAN as a group was Canada’s 6th largest trading partner. ASEAN and Canada enjoyed bilateral merchandise trade amounting to around 19 billion US dollars, whereas investment portfolios between the two sides accounted for just 0.3 billion US dollars. There thus remains a vast area of untapped cooperation, especially in the fields of innovation and technology.
 
The highly knowledgeable participants to this meeting certainly need no reminding of the great potential and appeal of this region (but I will mention them anyway). ASEAN, as a group, is the world’s sixth largest market with a combined population of more than 650 million people. It is a region of rich bio-diversity and abundant supply of skilled workforce. Its strategic location as the hinge point of the Indian and the Pacific Oceans makes it an important hub for international trade and investment.  ASEAN is poised to become the fourth largest economic bloc in the world by the year 2030.  Last year, ASEAN’s GDP totaled more than 2.9 trillion US dollars, with an average GDP growth rate of 5.3 per cent.  Foreign investment stood at 148 billion US dollars, an increase of 2.8 per cent from the year before.  Some 129 million tourists visited the region, with Thailand proudly being the top destination. So, together, Canada and ASEAN stand to benefit tremendously from increasing our two-way trade and investment. 
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
In line with Thailand’s ASEAN Chairmanship under the theme “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”, we are committed to strengthening sustainability in all dimensions through cooperation and close partnerships with all our friends, particularly Canada. We are working with our peers to build an ASEAN Community that seamlessly connects internally as well as externally. Our paramount objective is to drive forward an ASEAN Community that is people-centred, looks ahead to the future, and leaves no one behind.  
 
As you are well aware, ASEAN is pushing forward the negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is a trade agreement between the ten ASEAN member countries and six dialogue partners with whom we have Free Trade Agreements (FTA), namely China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand. Upon its conclusion, RCEP will become the world’s largest regional trade agreement covering a third of both global trade and GDP. It will also forge stronger economic linkages across four geographical regions, covering about half of the world’s population. RCEP would minimise complex structural barriers by streamlining rules and procedures related to customs and trade-related infrastructure. In practical terms, it means that Canadian businesses would only need to follow one set of procedures instead of having to navigate through different sets of rules when trading with its RCEP partners. 
 
On the same note, Thailand also welcomes the continuing Exploratory Discussions for an ASEAN-Canada FTA, leading towards the negotiation of a Free Trade Agreement among us all. If signed, Canada would have access to a market of 650 million consumers with a combined GDP of nearly 3 trillion US dollars. The main benefits of the FTA would come from tariff elimination and removal of non-tariff barriers facing goods, services, and investment. 
 
Thailand appreciates Canada’s increasing engagement with ASEAN, including in the area of trade and investment, which has contributed to expanding economic ties. We also appreciate the continued and constructive role of the Canada-ASEAN Business Council and the Thai-Canadian Chamber of Commerce in promoting economic ties between both sides. We are committed to further enhancing our partnership with Canada amid the ever-changing global landscape.  
 
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
To conclude, I would like to congratulate the Canada-ASEAN Business Council and the Thai-Canadian Chamber of Commerce for co-organising this event. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand remains ready to provide our continued support to CABC and CanCham Thailand’s efforts in promoting stronger and closer economic relations between Canada, Thailand and ASEAN.  I do wish today’s event every success.  
 
Thank you very much.