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Swiss have eye on northern Thai small and medium businesses

New Chiang Mai centre clinches first booking

Swiss have eye on northern Thai small and medium businesses

Swiss rolls for the North?

Autsadaporn Kamthai

Swiss entrepreneurs and government officials have been checking out small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the North with a view to future trade and investment.

Siriporn Nurak (3rd left), director of the Northern Region Investment and Economy Center 1; Jorg Ai Reding (4th left), an ambassador; Chiang Mai Deputy Governor Prinya Parnthong (3rd right), HE Hans-Peter Erismann (2nd right), Swiss ambassador to Thailand at the meeting.

The 15 Swiss visitors were in northern Thailand on October 6-7. The visit was organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the Royal Thai Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, the Swiss Ministry of Economy, Swiss-Southeast Asian Chamber of Commerce, and the Office of the Board of Investment (BoI), Northern Region Investment and Economy Center 1.

A seminar on “Trade and Investment Opportunity in Northern Thailand” was held on October 7 at the Sheraton Hotel to offer guidelines to the Swiss entrepreneurs and government officials.

Ambassador Jorg Ai Reding as a representative from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs; Hans-Peter Erismann, Swiss ambassador to Thailand; and Paul Hohl, a representative of the Swiss-Southeast Asian Chamber of Commerce, were among the participants.

Thai representatives included deputy governor Prinya Parnthong, on behalf of Chiang Mai province; Patchanee Kithavorn, a representative of the Royal Thai Embassy in Bern; Siriporn Nurak, director of the Northern Region Investment and Economy Center 1; and Chumpol Chutima, president of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce.

The main objectives were to look at the situation with a view to trade and investment in the North, build partnerships in order to be more competitive in the world market, and to share experience with Thai investors, according to Jorg Ai Reding.

“From January-August this year, 16 Swiss-owned projects were supported by the BoI and settled in the country, at a value of almost 900 million baht and creating 3,528 jobs for Thais,” Siriporn reported. “There are around four percent of Swiss shareholders in the northern industry, which shows that the North is not a major target for Swiss investors yet.

“However, the trend of Swiss investment in jewelry and fashion businesses in the North has emerged and northern workers can satisfy the demand for skilled manpower,” Siriporn said. Swiss entrepreneurs had shown great interest in the logistics and health care businesses in the North, she added.

To draw more investors and trade, the role of Chiang Mai as a new ICT city was emphasized to show its great potential, especially in the software industry.

The BoI also plans to take Thai SME entrepreneurs to observe business operations in Switzerland. It has asked for support from the Swiss-Southeast Asian Chamber of Commerce, which has as its main aim promoting economic and business relations between Switzerland and Southeast Asian countries and the Zuercher Kantonalbank to support Thai SMEs.

However, concerns over energy supply and the quality of infrastructure were raised at the seminar by one of the Swiss entrepreneurs. Inconsistent supply of electricity could have a detrimental effect on machine and factory operations, as could the price of oil to support land transportation and Chiang Mai’s traffic jams were also mentioned.

Siriporn admitted that Thailand was at a disadvantage in that it does not have its own fuel resources and has to purchase from overseas. However, attempts by the Thai government to produce and encourage the use of alternative energy sources such as ethanol were brought up.

After the seminar, participants toured Swiss-owned companies situated at the Northern Region Industrial Estate in Lamphun.

New Chiang Mai centre clinches first booking

Jeremy Colson, TTG Asia

Chiang Mai’s new convention centre has landed its first major booking even though construction is not scheduled to start until December.

A completion date for the project has been set for August 2006 so the centre will be operational in time for the International Horticultural Exposition scheduled for November 2006.

Tourism Authority of Thailand director of tourism investment, Udom Metatamrongsiri said the design phase has now been finished and approval is being sought for an increased budget to cover changes made in the proposed layout of the facility.

“The addition of a reception area and a larger parking area has facilitated the need for a budget increase from 1.45 billion baht (US$36.25million) to 1.6 billion baht,” he said.

No other design changes are foreseen for the facility, which comprises two main buildings situated 10 minutes from Chiang Mai International Airport.

The exhibition hall will provide 11,000m2 of exhibition space, which can be divided into two smaller spaces measuring 8,000m2 and 3,000m2 respectively. The convention/meeting centre will include 40 breakout rooms and total seating capacity for up to 3,000 visitors.