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Cablegate: Ambassador Pushes Key Trade Issues with New Commerce

VZCZCXRO6625
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHBK #3774 3650809
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 300809Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5530
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 6020
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BANGKOK 003774

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

EAP FOR EAP/MLS AND EB
DEPT PASS TO USTR
COMMERCE FOR EAP/MAC/OKSA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV ETRD EFIN PGOV TH
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR PUSHES KEY TRADE ISSUES WITH NEW COMMERCE
MINISTER AND DEPUTY MINISTER

REF: BANGKOK 3757

1. (SBU) Ambassador John paid a courtesy call December 26 on newly
appointed Commerce Minister Pornthiva Nakasai (SecGen of Bhum Jai
Thai Party) and Deputy Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot (Democrat). The
meeting began with a photo-op after which the Minister invited the
Ambassador into her office for an hour-long discussion about the
Ministry's plans to address the economic crisis and to regain the
trust of foreign investors.

The Minister took advantage of the opportunity to roll out a laundry
list of Thai trade concerns, including the shrimp continuous bond
issue, GSP, the JADE Act, restrictions on the trade in crocodile
skins, mutual recognition agreements relating to the SPS
requirements for the importation of tropical fruit from Thailand,
and possible GSP preferences for Thai tropical fruit. The Minister
also requested the Ambassador's assistance in regaining the trust of
the American business community.

2. (SBU) The Ambassador informed the Minister that we would
follow-up with her concerns. He noted our concern regarding the
Ministry's price control regime and also indicated he hoped U.S.
beef would be allowed back into Thailand as soon as possible. The
Ambassador added that a few recent events outside of the political
protest realm also have damaged Thailand's reputation with foreign
investors, including the labor unrest at the Auto Alliance plant
(Ford/ Mazada JV) in Rayong Province. He stressed that labor was
within their rights to disagree with management during contract
negotiations; however, there is no excuse for the illegal union
actions in Rayong during the past few weeks which have included
unilaterally walking out of the mandated contract negotiations,
damaging machinery, cars and engines, and blocking access to the
plant. The Ambassador also noted the behavior of the police was
disappointing as they did not act to stop the illegal acts carried
out by the protestors.

3. (SBU) Both the Minister and Deputy Minister committed to work to
regain investor confidence, enforce the law and respect intellectual
property rights. The Deputy Minster made a point of stressing the
formation of a new working group with the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs that would focus on improving the enforcement of
intellectual property rights protection in the Kingdom. (New Foreign
Minister Kasit also stressed this during the Ambassador's courtesy
call earlier the same day.)(reftel)

4. (SBU) Comment: The Thai business community has expressed concern
about the appointment of both the Minister and Deputy Minister of
Commerce. It was clear during the meeting that the new Ministry of
Commerce leadership has a long way to go to earn the trust of both
the Thai and foreign business communities. While both the Minister
(who had to read all of her points from a text) and Deputy Minister
said the right things regarding improving foreign investor
confidence, it is yet to be seen whether they will have the
political weight needed to follow-up with their statements regarding
IPR protection and enforcement of commercial law. Embassy
representatives from FCS, FAS and Econ will follow-up at the
Director General level in the coming weeks to discuss issues of
common concern and take advantage of the good will generated from
this courtesy call.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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