The unfolding post-Brexit scenario was an anchor of Amb Davidson’s presentation at the British Chamber of Commerce of Thailand (BCCT) Business Dinner held at the Amari Patong on Sept 22.
“I think the situation is still a little unclear as to what the final parameters of the negotiations will be, but my expectation – and this is my thoughts only – is that by early next year we will have a reasonable sense of what the Cabinet feels are the parameters for negotiations that will take us forward,” Amd Davidson said.
Mr Davidson noted that wide speculation in the press about Britain’s position post-Brexit ran the full spectrum from full self-regulation to a disguised re-entry into the EU market, but noted that UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had made very clear what Amb Davidson’s role in Thailand is.
“Boris Johnson, who was one of the key supporters of the Leave campaign, has very strong vision of where Britain should be in the world, and I think it is very helpful that he has been very clear,” Amb Davidson said.
“The UK is not looking back in on itself, we are looking more outward. The instructions I have for the mission (UK Embassy) is to look at the opportunities, particularly in Thailand and Southeast Asia, for the UK to expand its presence, to solidify some of the relationships we have, and to see what additional advantage we can gain before we Brexit finally becomes a reality,” he explained.
To this, Amb Davidosn pointed to the formation of the Thai-UK Business Leadership Council as crucial step in developing UK-Thailand trade relations.
“We have been talking to very senior business people in Thailand, and there is very strong support from the Thai side,” he said, praising the achievements of both Prime Minister’s Special Envoy Virasakdi Futrakul and UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Thailand Mark Garnier.
“This is a very strong development in providing British businesses the best opportunity to enter the market here in Thailand,” he said.
“We are close to making recommendations, but we need to make sure that what we present to the Thai government is what British business needs to support the development of industries in Thailand – and we need to represent the interests of SMEs (small- to medium-sized enterprises),” he said.
Noting from his experience in China, where he served “for the better part of 25 years”, Amb Davidson said it was important for people to keep in mind that China’s economic growth was not an overnight miracle.
“The assumption seems to be that the growth was a straight line of continuous development, but actually it was a process of peaks and troughs,” he said.
“Most countries move forward through this same process of peaks and troughs, and with Thailand I think we should focus less on the immediate and more on the long-term development.
“Not only should we look at what Thailand is doing for its own development, but also how it’s exploiting the developments within Southeast Asia and growth within the Asean community.
“We should see how the UK can support Thailand to take advantage of the developments within Asean and how the country is working towards moving up the value chain; to become a hub for the digital industry in Southeast Asia, and use the support we can give bringing in British expertise through businesses to help Thailand achieve its stated ambitions in these areas to create opportunities for British business interests in Thailand,” he explained.
“I think there’s a very positive vision for British business in Thailand,” Amb Davidson concluded.