Interview: Don Pramudwinai

How has Thailand transitioned from a net aid recipient to an international aid donor?

DON PRAMUDWINAI: Since 2003 the Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA) – under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – has played an active role in the nation’s developmental cooperation efforts. TICA initiatives include fellowship and scholarship programmes, study visits, volunteer programmes and various tailor-made development projects. Underpinning Thailand’s own growth and these international cooperation projects is the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP), a model conferred to the Thai people by His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej since 1974, as an approach towards sustainable development. Over the years, Thailand has collaborated with over 160 partners, including partner countries through the South-South Cooperation (SSC), partners from traditional donor countries and international organisations through Triangular Cooperation.

We are looking ahead to continue the successful work of sharing the SEP as a means to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) during Thailand’s Chairmanship of Group 77 in 2016 through international development cooperation initiatives such as “SEP for SDGs Partnership” and “SEP for SDGs Youth Partnership”. As an ASEAN coordinator on promoting the complementaries between the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Thailand will continue to expand our partnership with countries and organisations under the SSC towards the attainment of the SDGs by 2030.

In what ways can Thailand capitalise on the development potential of its neighbouring nations?

DON: The region comprising of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) is a new and highly dynamic centre of growth in the South-east Asian region. Our policy is not to capitalise on the CLMV, but rather support these nations so they can reach their potential as strategic partners of Thailand for sustainable growth and development. Since the ultimate goal of the region is to become a prosperous land bridge connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Thailand sees the importance of economic integration. This includes connectivity through infrastructure improvement, economic corridors and the harmonisation of rules and regulations to facilitate functional and effective trade and investment. This integration is being carried out in various regimes; bilaterally, through special economic zones (SEZs) along borders; and multilaterally, through various frameworks including the Greater Mekong Subregion.

In addition, the establishment of Thailand’s Future Fund aims to mobilise funding from the private sector for connectivity infrastructure projects to further ensure an inclusive form of sustainable growth in the region that leaves no one behind.

What types of free trade agreements (FTAs) and regional trade blocs are currently being pursued?

DON: Thailand has already entered 12 FTAs with 17 trade partners from ASEAN, its six dialogue partners – Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea – to Chile and Peru in Latin America. To further strengthen our position as a trading nation under the Thailand 4.0 policy, several ongoing FTA negotiations are being actively pursued. At the bilateral level, the Pakistan-Thailand FTA, set to be finalised by June 2017, will enhance both countries’ competitive edge and value chain creation, while the Thailand-Turkey FTA has undergone comprehensive preparatory discussions and will be commenced at both countries’ earliest agreed timeframe. Thailand has been active in ASEAN-led negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership which are on-going and looks forward to its conclusion with the other 15 countries. This will result in it being the largest FTA in the world, one involving half of the world’s population. This ASEAN-led effort sends a positive message to the international community, that ASEAN continues to be a reliable engine of growth.