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Thai finance minister upbeat over return of investment


April 29, 2008

Thai finance minister upbeat over return of investment

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee, who met visiting US Under Secretary for International Trade Christopher A Padilla on Monday, said the United States is ready to resume investment in Thailand, as the country's democratic system has been restored.

Surapong said he had discussed with the US undersecretary and other officials concerning ways to promote investment in various areas, adding that the lifting of the 30 percent reserve requirement helped boost US investor confidence in Thailand.

Padilla, who was in Bangkok for the 175th anniversary of US-Thai relations, hailed elections last December as "a welcome milestone."

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej assured assembled US business leaders that his new government was trying to improve the investment climate, and said it had no plans to put restrictions on foreign companies.

Earlier, Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama expressed disappointment over the US’s decision to put Thailand on the priority watchlist for the second year over the country’s alleged failure to protect intellectual property rights.

The minister was referring to Thailand being among the nine countries allegedly failing to respect US patents and copyrights in the US annual report released last week. It listed copyright violations on books, computer software, DVDs and cable television in Thailand as cause for concern.

Business relations between the two countries have been affected by compulsory licences issued by the previous military government in 2006, which suspended patent protections for expensive cutting-edge treatments for AIDS, cancer and heart disease and allowing cheap, generic versions into the market.

The US and western pharmaceutical companies have said the generic drugs programme violates their intellectual property rights. It was a major sticking point in earlier free trade talks between Thailand and the United States, which has been stalled since the coup in September 2006.

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