Thursday, March 29, 2007

US Ambassador Ralph Boyce Speaking in San Francisco about Investment Climate in Thailand

Thailand business climate still uncertain

Potential drug patent changes among concerns

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thailand remains a challenging place to do business six months after an Army coup deposed the previous government, and foreign investment faces a possible slowdown, the U.S. ambassador to Thailand, Ralph Boyce, said in San Francisco this week.

Boyce said the military junta that runs the country on an interim basis has backed off from proposals to impose strict capital controls on foreign investors. But the unelected government stirred up controversy by proposing caps on foreign ownership of Thai companies and saying it would strip key drugs of their patent protection and give away generic versions.

Boyce also said advanced negotiations to craft a bilateral U.S.-Thailand free trade agreement have been put on hold.

"We went through several rounds of negotiations," said Boyce, who has been Washington's man in Bangkok for two years. The pact's opponents, he said, "put together emotional demonstrations and said free trade with the U.S. was antithetical to Thai interests."

Boyce demurred. "In the history of the world, no small country has ever not benefited from a free-trade deal with the United States."

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