Norway looks to Thai gateway to Myanmar

Norway aims to turn Thailand, its seventh-biggest trading partner in Asia, into a gateway for its businesses and investments in Myanmar, according to top Norwegian officials.

Last week, the Nordic country launched its fifth annual “Norway-Asia Business Summit” in Bangkok, which was followed by a similar event in Yangon, as both Thailand and Myanmar are key members of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), which will be fully activated in 2015.

The Bangkok event – which started last Saturday and finished on Tuesday – was attended by 150 Norwegian businesspeople and officials, with an emphasis on the big picture of Asia, challenges and a glimpse into the future, focusing on the food and energy sectors.

The Myanmar programme highlighted the latest developments in legislative changes, new opportunities, and the challenges of doing business in the country. Katja C Nordgaard, Norway’s ambassador to Thailand, said: “Thailand is our seventh-biggest trading partner in Asia. We have come quite a long way from 2006 when things were put on ice [for] political reasons. “Last year, we started to discuss the preparations for negotiations on a bilateral free-trade agreement with Thailand.

“As of now, the political situation is again a bit unclear, so we have to wait until there is a new government in Thailand. We look forward to seeing how the AEC will impact on business and investment in the region.

“In terms of investment, Thailand could be the starting point for outside investors and businesses wanting to be in the AEC.”

Morten Hoglund, Norway’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, said Asean and Thailand were very important for Norway in terms of economic and business interests.

“The summit highlights the opportunities and discusses challenges and what’s really happening in Thailand and the region,” he said.

“This would also stimulate the government to help businesses, while businesspeople can network and share experiences. A total of 150 businesses and government officials joined this summit. “Asean is an important region with strong relations with each of the member countries. Norway has a prominent presence in shipping, telecom [and the] energy and fisheries sectors in several Asean countries.”

Major Norwegian firms with significant business interests in Asean include Telenor, Statoil, and chemical company Yara.

In Thailand, Telenor is a key player in the telecommunications sector, with a majority interest in Total Access Communication (DTAC), the country’s second-biggest telecom.

Recently, Telenor won a concession to invest in Myanmar’s mobile-phone infrastructure. Yara is a key player in the Thai fertiliser market and agricultural sector.

Source: The Nation Thailand

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