Thailand’s new prime minister courts US companies for investment

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s new Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin met with U.S. companies including Microsoft, Google, and Estee Lauder in his first trip abroad since coming to power last month, looking to draw investment to boost a flagging economy.

Thailand is expected to grow 2.8%, less than previously projected, due to weaker exports. That is a challenge for Srettha, who is aiming to grow Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy by 5% each year.

“I’ve been saying, Thailand is open for business … we want to invite more foreign investors,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Srettha is in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly where he spoke with Tesla chief, Elon Musk and discussed the electric vehicle industry via video conference.

“We met Estee Lauder chairman … who asked about seaweed in Thailand, which is an important component in quality cosmetics, so we are studying this because raw material is crucial for setting up a factory,” Srettha said.

Microsoft was also interested in setting up data centres and another meeting will be held to move things forward, Srettha said, adding that Google was also in talks with Thai board of investment, without giving details.

The prime minister also held talks with banks.

“To service foreign investments, we will need financial institutions … Goldman Sachs said they will consider setting up an office in Thailand,” Srettha said.

In the first six months of 2023, investment pledges to Thailand rose 70%, driven by Chinese auto investors.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Edited by Lincoln Feast.)