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Cablegate: Prime Minister Meets with Asia-Pacific American Chambers Of

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OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHBK #2678/01 2930945
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 200945Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8661
INFO RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI IMMEDIATE 7176
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002678

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, EEB
STATE PASS TO USTR FOR BWEISEL, BKLEIN
COMMERCE FOR EAP/MAC/OKSA FOR JKELLY
TREASURY FOR OASIA
SINGAPORE FOR FINATT BLEIWEIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: ECON EINV ETRD PREL TH
SUBJECT: PRIME MINISTER MEETS WITH ASIA-PACIFIC AMERICAN CHAMBERS OF
COMMERCE

REF: A. BANGKOK 2597 (ENVIRONMENTALISTS VERSUS INDUSTRIALISTS)
B. BANGKOK 2320 (AMBASSADOR MEETS DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER)
C. BANGKOK 2185 (REFORMING THAI CUSTOMS)

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1. (SBU) Summary: In an October 16 meeting with the Ambassador and
representatives of the Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of
Commerce (APCAC), Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva expressed
optimism that Thailand was on the path to economic recovery now that
unemployment figures have stabilized and exports and tourism figures
are improving. He asserted that following the implementation of the
government's second stimulus package, Thailand's competitiveness
should soar over the next three years. While noting the wealth of
opportunities for American businesses in Thailand and the region,
the Ambassador urged the Prime Minister to address some of the
business community's long-standing complaints such as customs
inefficiencies. End Summary.

2. (U) The Ambassador led a group of American business leaders from
APCAC, an umbrella organization of 27 American Chambers of Commerce
from throughout the region, to meet with Prime Minister Abhisit on
October 16. The business group was headed by APCAC Chair, Kristin
Paulson, based in Singapore, and Tami Overby, Vice President for
Asia Pacific at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC.

3. (SBU) The Ambassador noted the wealth of opportunities to expand
trade between the U.S. and Asia and congratulated the Prime
Minister's efforts to establish a single window to help facilitate
trade. Abhisit said Thailand's economic data was starting to show
signs of recovery and he hoped his government could now focus on
improving Thailand's competitiveness in the region. Abhisit
expressed his appreciation for the Obama Administration's increased
engagement with ASEAN and said that he looked forward to continuing
these discussions with the President during next month's U.S.-ASEAN
Summit in Singapore. Abhisit also said he hoped the U.S. would be
able to facilitate a conclusion to the Doha Round soon and that a
binding agreement could be reached on climate change.

4. (SBU) The Ambassador raised a set of existing business concerns,
including customs inconsistencies (ref C), and business worries at
some major investment sites such as the Map Ta Phut Industrial
Estate (ref A). The Ambassador opined that if the Thai government
could address these business concerns, U.S. investment in Thailand
could easily top $3 billion this year, or one eighth of overall
investment over the past fifty years. Abhisit noted that the foreign
business community regularly reminded him of the need to liberalize
Thailand's investment rules, particularly in the finance and
logistics sectors. He added that his government would be willing to
liberalize certain sectors, particularly those that would not
require lengthy legislative amendments.

5. (U) In response to the Ambassador's inquiry about the Map Ta Phut
dispute (ref A), the Prime Minister emphasized that his government
had appealed the ruling by the Administrative Court and that he
hoped the Supreme Administrative Court would overturn the ruling so
that companies, including Dow Chemical and Star Petroleum Refining
Co, a subsidiary of Chevron, could proceed with their investment
projects. He indicated that the government is currently reviewing
other options to enable the projects to proceed, particularly if the
court's initial ruling is upheld. The Ambassador stated that the
U.S. Government will not interfere with the legal process and
stressed that all parties want to reach an environmentally friendly
solution to the problem.

6. (U) Regarding intellectual property rights, Abhisit pointed out
that the government had increased its IPR enforcement efforts in
recent months. He expressed hope that the government's "creative
economy" initiative would motivate Thai citizens to create their own
intellectual property to propel the Thai economy forward. He added
that the government continues to look for solutions to provide lower
income populations with access to essential drugs.

7. (SBU) In a separate one-on-one meeting with the Prime Minister
following the APCAC meeting, the Ambassador inquired about the
status of the U.S. company GTECH's online lottery contract, which
has been stalled for the past four years. The Prime Minister
indicated that the Ministry of Finance would allow the project to
move forward, but only after a charitable fund for the proceeds
generated by the lottery had been established. The Ambassador also
raised the Customs-related concerns of Amway (ref B), but the Prime
Minister was surprised Amway's case had not been resolved already.
Post will follow up on these two cases.


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