AFG looks at ASEAN and Myanmar

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The dynamic Automotive Focus Group (AFG) met at the Hilton Pattaya last week, later joining an informative address by Anthony Nafte – senior economist at CLSA.

New president, Uli Kaiser, introduced the new committee to the members, following the resignation of previous president James Beeson, who has taken up a senior appointment in Korat.  In addition, secretary/treasurer Maurice Bromley and his wife Renita are returning to the Philippines, leaving another two vacancies in the executive, filled by Frank Holzer (VP), Randy Simmons (treasurer) and Armin Walter (secretary).  Mention was also made that the AFG, now a stand-alone organization turns five years old this year, and a suitable celebration will be organized.

Anthony Nafte. Anthony Nafte.

The AFG members were also very interested in the address given by Anthony Nafte, as since January 1997, Anthony has developed wide reaching expertise in various Asian economies.  He is a specialist on emerging ASEAN markets, covering Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.  He is currently based in Hong Kong and has a BSc in economics from the University of London and an MSc in economics from the London School of Economics.

The address was titled, “The Myanmar-Thai Nexus: Blazing the ASEAN Trail” following on from Myanmar’s recent political opening paving the way for an economic restructuring that will unleash the country’s huge potential.  This is a nation rich in resources, with extensive arable land, a young labor force and the lowest wage level in the region.  There will be significant impact that such development will have on the region, through enhanced connectivity with China, India and Japan and the opening of a new gateway to Europe.  Thailand will be central in broadening the transportation network across ASEAN, spurred by its increasing reliance on Myanmar’s energy resources for sustaining its own economic upswing.

The presentation was quite informative – pointing out, for example, that Myanmar with its 60 million population, is actually the largest country in the mainland of SE Asia at 676,577 sq. km and 5,858 km of international borders.

Anthony spoke on the radical transition from a closed to an open economy, and with labor costs 24 percent of Thailand’s and 50 percent of China’s this will mean that political change is irreversible.

In the ASEAN region, Thailand is most integrated with Myanmar with already a large number of migrant workers, with close language and cultural ties.

70 percent of natural gas reserves are coming from Myanmar and this makes Myanmar an important resource in the ASEAN community.

Anthony highlighted the fact that Myanmar will import manufactured goods and cars from Thailand and will need skilled workers.  Tourism will increase exponentially where currently there are 500,000 tourists in Myanmar with many going through Thailand, which currently enjoys 19 million tourists.

With all this activity happening across Thailand’s borders, the AFG members could see the opportunities that exist for business in Thailand.

Contact can be made with the AFG through the president email [email protected]