Monthly Membership Meeting: A Regional Look at Thailand and ASEAN Trade Flows During the Pandemic

Monthly Membership Meeting: A Regional Look at Thailand and ASEAN Trade Flows During the Pandemic

On July 16, AMCHAM’s Trade and Investment Committee organized A Regional Look at Thailand and ASEAN Trade Flows During the Pandemic to over 80 registrants. This event also served as the Chamber’s Monthly Membership meeting. AMCHAM Governor and former President, Gregory Bastien, opened the event with updates regarding the Chamber’s activities. He also listed the new members who joined AMCHAM through 2020. Gregory then introduced Trade and Investment Committee Co-Chair, Noah Shepard, who presented the event’s speakers.

The panel featured the country heads of Tractus Asia, a Bangkok- headquartered, regional management consultancy that focuses on helping foreign investors succeed in Asia. The speakers included John Evans, Co-Founder and Managing Director; Udai Panicker, Country Manager – Singapore; Christoph Lam, Country Manager – Vietnam; and James Meisenheimer, Country Manager – Myanmar. As Covid-19 severely disrupted regional trade flows and foreign direct investment plans across all ASEAN countries, Tractus gave insight on the second half of 2020, as companies begin to assess the outcomes of policy changes.

John Evans began the event by elaborating on the economic woes that the first two quarters of 2020 brought to the region. “But ASEAN is resilient” he stated, remarking on how measures to control the virus quickly have resulted in many countries reopening their economies. He also commented on Global FDI flows and how they’re forecasted to drop significantly in 2020 and into 2021. John commented on Thailand controlling the virus well but that the outlook for economic recovery was not looking quite as healthy.

The panel moved to Udai Panicker who commented on Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia. He said that Singapore’s GDP is expected to shrink anywhere from 4 to 7 percent in the next year, marking a significant contraction for the company. The country has recently opened travel bubbles with China and was considered the model for handling Covid-19 until the second wave approached. Indonesia’s recovery was in even starker contrast to Singapore’s as the country is expected to have 4 million people living below the poverty line before the year’s end. Udai spoke on Malaysia and its path to recovery as the government fast tracks license approvals and skilling programs for unemployed workers.

Christoph Lam spoke on Vietnam, whose economic life and investment climate are mostly returning to normal. Due to strong control policies at the onset of Covid-19, Vietnam has been the least impacted country in the ASEAN region and is looking to create travel bubbles with Japan and Korea in the near future. Christoph also mentioned that the country is looking to experience growth in its digital transformation soon.

The final speaker, James Meisenheimer, spoke on Myanmar. James previously spoke at an AMCHAM event in 2019 with an update on Myanmar and cited internal conflicts from 2017 to 2019 that had hindered some of the country’s progress. Myanmar had started from a challenge position but has remained resilient even with the headwinds of Covid-19. Despite the country’s efforts to maintain its economic standing, over 100 factories have shut down due to lack of funding. The outlook for Myanmar was dim but hopeful as the country looks to rebuild in the coming years.

The event concluded with panelists answering questions regarding Thailand’s stance in regional competitiveness, expected recovery, and Singapore’s rebound. Charles Blocker, AMCHAM Travel & Hospitality Co-Chair, also provided some insight on how the Tourism Industry is expecting to handle the third and fourth quarters of the year. The PDF of the presentation and video are both available for download on the AMCHAM member portal.

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