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Cablegate: Commerce Minister Pledges Support, but for How Long?

VZCZCXRO1220
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHBK #0904 0810924
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210924Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2362
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BANGKOK 000904

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE PASS USTR
USDOC FOR 4430/EAP/MAC/OKSA

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD KIPR EINV TH

SUBJECT: COMMERCE MINISTER PLEDGES SUPPORT, BUT FOR HOW LONG?

1. (SBU) Summary: In a March 17 courtesy call on Deputy Prime
Minister and Minister of Commerce Mingkwan Sangsuwan, Ambassador
John, accompanied by A/USTR Weisel, expressed the importance the
U.S. held for its economic relationship with Thailand and the
continued interest of U.S. companies in investing in Thailand, but
noted particular problems with intellectual property protection.
Mingkwan described his vision of Thailand as a regional hub for
manufacturing and trade and encouraged greater U.S. investment.
Mingkwan offered his assistance on investment and trade issues, but
repeatedly questioned just how long he would remain in office to do
so. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The Ambassador pointed out to Minister Mingkwan that this
year marked the 175th anniversary of the Treaty of Amity and
Commerce which had formed the foundation for the bilateral economic
relationship. He noted that trade was beneficial not only as a
driver of economic growth but also that the use of each other's
products, including movies, food and autos, helped build
relationships and bind countries together. Mingkwan responded that
he had long been a movie buff (and spoke fondly of Tom Cruise's role
in "Born on the Fourth of July") and had been influenced by American
movies. He said that Thailand had always welcomed foreign
investment.

3. (SBU) In a bit of stream of consciousness, Mingkwan laid out his
economic plan for Thailand as a hub in the region. Thailand would
act as a gateway to the ASEAN region for trade and investment by
capitalizing on its central location in ASEAN and its array of trade
agreements that had lowered trade barriers with the region's top
trading partners. As a fan of Italian silk ties, he said he would
try to attract top fashion brands to produce in Thailand for export.
The Ambassador responded that U.S. business was beginning to view
ASEAN as a single economic entity and continued to show interest in
investing in Thailand.

4. (SBU) The Ambassador said, however, that Thailand needed a level
playing field for business, particularly in the area of intellectual
property protection. Assistant USTR Barbara Weisel asked Mingkwan
for his assistance in resolving the controversy over the compulsory
licensing of pharmaceutical products. The Ambassador added that the
compulsory licenses have been like a billboard advertising to
investors that Thailand has inadequate intellectual property
protection. Mingkwan replied that he would be meeting with other
Ministers the following week to discuss the issue. He added that he
considered that the issue belonged to the Ministry of Public Health,
but promised that his staff would study the issue and that he would
meet with pharmaceutical companies.

5. (SBU) Throughout the meeting, Mingkwan offered his assistance on
any issue that the U.S. requested help, particularly on investments
which he thought would be streaming in to Thailand over the next
three years. However, he frequently mentioned that he did not know
how long he would be in office to work on those issues, and asked
the Ambassador at one point how long he thought he (Mingkwan) would
be around. Although he took office in February with a long and
well-regarded resume of business experience, Mingkwan obviously felt
that even after such a short time that his days were already
numbered. Mingkwan may not be alone in his concern. Political
commentators have been gauging the fractiousness of the six-party
governing coalition and speculating how long the current government
will remain intact, although so far it shows no sign of serious
weakness.
JOHN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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