Great opportunities for collaboration in strategic sectors

The Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, received the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, Srettha Thavisin, today at Palazzo Chigi. We learn this from a note from the Presidency of the Council, according to which the conversation focused on strengthening the bilateral relationship between Italy and Thailand, and in particular on the great opportunities for collaboration in strategic sectors such as infrastructural development, digitalisation and energy transition . The two heads of government also agreed to strengthen cooperation in the fields of tourism and culture and discussed Thailand’s desire to initiate an accession procedure to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), supported by the Italy. Meloni accepted Prime Minister Srettha’s invitation to travel to Thailand.

 

The visit to Rome of the Prime Minister of Thailand continues, By Srettha Thavis Yesterday the head of the Bangkok government was the protagonist of a tight agenda of talks with the heads of some of the most important Italian companies, which he invited to invest in Thailand, especially in the sectors of the aviation, insurance and chain industries distribution to support small and medium-sized local businesses. In particular, Srettha met Lorenzo Mariani e Marco De Fazio, respectively co-general manager and director of Leonardo’s electronics division, to whom he proposed opening a regional office and a maintenance center in Thailand, the latter dedicated to the approximately 30 helicopters and ATR aircraft operating in the country. The managers of the Italian company, as reported by the prime minister himself, appeared interested above all in the first hypothesis. However, Srettha said he intended to continue talks with Leonardo, which has “the potential to do a lot for our defense industry”.

The head of the Thai government then saw the CEO of Generali, Jaime Anchustegui. The company, Srettha later said, “understands Thailand’s growth potential” and is interested in investing in a market that is “still small compared to global numbers.” Then it was the turn of Andrea Gesi, general manager of Ducati, a company that has already invested in a production plant in Thailand. Now, Srettha said, Ducati is also interested in investing in electric motorbikes and their batteries. The Thai Prime Minister underlined the importance of expanding the company’s supply chains in Thailand, beyond motorcycle assembly, which would have positive repercussions on local small and medium-sized businesses. Furthermore, Srettha met with the president for the development of Barilla partnerships, Federico Vescovi: the pasta producing company has said it is interested in strengthening collaboration with the Thai agri-food companies. Finally, the comparison with Guido Brusco, general director for Natural Resources at Eni, who reiterated the Italian giant’s interest in exploiting the potential offered by Thailand in the field of biofuels.

Srettha arrived in Italy accompanied by his deputy and Minister of Transport Suriya Juangroongruangkit, protagonist yesterday of the Italy-Thailand Business Forum organized at the Unioncamere headquarters. It was an opportunity to present to Italian investors the commercial opportunities offered by the South-East Asian country and, above all, the “Landbridge” project, the workhorse of Prime Minister Srettha’s government, destined to change in the coming years and revolutionize the international maritime transport system, bypassing the bottleneck of the Strait of Malacca and opening a new, crucial passage between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. The conference, during which a memorandum of understanding was signed between Unioncamere and the Chamber of Commerce and Trade Office of Thailand, was attended by, among others, the general director for the promotion of the Country System of the Ministry of Business foreign affairs and international cooperation, Mauro Battocchi; the Italian ambassador to Thailand, Paolo Dionisi; the permanent secretary of the Thai Ministry of Transport, Chayatan Phromsorn; Secretary General of the Board of Investment (BOI) of Thailand, Narit Therdsteerasukdi; the general director of Ice-Agenzia, Lorenzo Galanti.

However, the Foreign Minister was unable to attend the meeting. Antonio Tajani, summoned to Palazzo Chigi by Prime Minister Meloni for an emergency meeting on the death of the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi. In his place, Battocchi recalled the reasons for the growing interest of the world of Italian industry and entrepreneurship in Thailand: a country of 66 million inhabitants, with a continuously growing gross domestic product per capita, a privileged gateway to the common market of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and close, probably by the end of 2025, to signing a free trade agreement with the European Union. Italy, for its part, has a commercial exchange with Thailand which in 2023 just exceeded 4 billion euros. “It is not enough”, underlined the diplomat, referring to the “very great potential” offered by the Asian country, to the public investments launched by the Srettha government and to the many sectors in which “we can do more”: renewable energy, agro -industry, infrastructure, digital transition. Thailand, Battocchi explained, must be “an important piece in what Tajani calls growth diplomacy, aimed at generating development of imports and exports, investments, growth of the economy and employment in a ‘win-win’ perspective. win’”.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suriya clarified the message that the Bangkok government addresses “to our Italian friends”. “Thailand is open for business and there is no better time to invest”: bringing cooperation “to a higher level” is one of the “top priorities” of the executive, which is taking “decisive actions” to make the country “one of the most competitive destinations in the world for investments”. The minister referred, in particular, to the 13,5 billion dollar stimulus package launched by the Srettha government last April, which in the intentions of the Bangkok authorities should relaunch consumption and make the Thai GDP gain a further 1,8, 2 percentage points (the national economy grew by approximately 2023 percent in XNUMX). Then there is the free trade agreement with the EU, which according to Suriya could be a “turning point” in the process of consolidating Thailand’s position in the region.

Another turning point will be the “Landbridge”, the continental bridge designed to make Thailand one of the main transport and logistics hubs in the world. The megaproject was presented at today’s forum by the secretary general of the Ministry of Transport in Bangkok, Chayatan Phomsorn. It involves the development of two deep-sea ports, at Ranong and Chumphon, on the west and east coasts respectively, capable of handling 20 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) of cargo and connected via 90 kilometers of highway lines and railways and pipelines. Operated by a single operator, the Continental Bridge would open a new passage between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, allowing shipping companies to save time (on average four days of travel) and money, and avoid the bottleneck of the Strait of Malacca, through which 25 percent of world maritime trade and 56 percent of oil trade now passes. In 2030, congestion in the Strait of Malacca could exceed the threshold and, from this perspective, the Continental Bridge could be not only a “golden opportunity” for investors, as Chayatan underlined, but also a strategic necessity for a Exporting country like Italy.

He highlighted it Lorenzo Galanti, who in addition to being the general director of Ice was in the past ambassador to Bangkok. “In times of crisis in the Red Sea and drought in the Panama Canal”, the Thai project is “strategically very relevant”. Even more so since Thailand, Galanti observed, “due to its geographical characteristics, has the requirements to be the entry point for ASEAN”. The local market itself, however, is of great interest for Italian companies. The diplomat recalled how in 2023 our exports to Thailand grew by double digits in sectors such as textile products, waste treatment, wood and paper products. “The most important item is still represented by machinery and equipment, in line with the country’s advanced industrialization programs,” said Galanti, according to whom such important numbers “are destined to grow if the Thailand-Thailand free trade agreement materializes EU: a “fundamental step also for our consumer goods, for our agri-food”, especially in the wine sector. “The reduction of customs duties – explained the director general of Ice – would be a decisive element for our competitiveness, in a context in which other producing countries, such as Chile, already have agreements of this type”. Italy, Galanti noted, also looks to Thailand with a view to diversifying and consolidating supply chains.

Our country is present in Thailand with large companies well rooted in the local market, such as Ducati, Danieli, Leonardo and Luxottica. Others could arrive in the near future also benefiting from the support offered by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), present at the meeting with the head of international market development Laurent Franciosi. The manager referred, in particular, to the Climate Fund, capable of mobilizing resources of 4,2 billion euros to support investments in infrastructure, green energy and agriculture. “Thailand – said Franciosi – can be one of the ‘target’ countries”. Finally, the testimony of the company representatives. Marco Piredda, manager of Eni, underlined how “in terms of energy strategy” Thailand and the Italian giant are “complementary and synergistic”. The first has “ambitious and important plans” to guarantee supplies capable of fueling its development, but also to reduce carbon emissions; the second is “an important player in the challenge of climate transition”. Piredda also highlighted Thailand’s “wide potential” in the field of renewables, in particular for bio-fuels.

Richard Maria Monti he is president of Triboo, which assists companies in developing and managing digital businesses. According to the manager, Italy is today “still underrepresented in the Asean system”, especially when compared with direct investments from France in recent years. Thailand, in particular, is today “a very important manufacturing country” and “the second market for e-commerce in Asia”, a “very young” country with “excellent schools” in which to recruit young talent. “We want to do more, and we want to do it now,” Monti clarified. An investment story in the opposite direction is that of La Rinascente, a department store chain founded in Italy in 1865 and acquired in 2011 by the Thai Chirathivat family. A success story, as CEO Pierluigi Cocchini said. “Last year – he observed – we crossed the milestone of one billion euros in turnover” and Italy “was a launching pad” for new investments by the Chirathivats in Europe.

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