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Thailand to consider opening some service businesses to more foreign investment

Thailand is considering opening some businesses in the service industry to more foreign investment.

A panel overseeing the review will meet on Thursday to decide the types of service businesses that will be opened up to foreign participation, said Mrs Kulanee Issadisai, director-general of the Business Development Department.

The review is aimed at bringing the Foreign Business Act (FBA) in line with changing economic conditions, she said.

Businesses that will be reviewed under the FBA are those under the List 3 designation of the Act, which restricts and prohibits foreigners from operating in “businesses in which Thai nationals are not yet ready to compete with foreigners”.

The businesses that could be opened to foreign participation will be those related to the targeted industries that now being promoted by the government. These include next-generation cars, smart electronics, affluent, medical and wellness tourism, agriculture and biotechnology, food, robotics for industry, logistics and aviation, biofuels and biochemicals, digital, and medical services.

Thailand’s Foreign Business Act currently limits foreign shareholding to 49 per cent of a business.

There are currently three lists under which foreign participation in business activities may be prohibited or restricted. The other two lists which curb foreign participation cover business activities that are related to national security, arts and culture, traditional handicrafts, natural resources and the environment.

Under Thai law, foreign companies must apply for and obtain a foreign business licence in order to participate in these businesses.

Mrs Kulanee said the Thailand Development Research Institute will be studying the businesses on List 3 to determine those in which Thais are now ready to compete. TS EP

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