What a week! As National President of the Australia Thailand Business Council, I was involved in many of the events regarding the visit of HE Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand. It all kicked off with a media interview with ABC and progressed to lunch at Parliament House. Julia Gillard was hosting, it was great to see two women leaders for a change, and equally great to see so many friends in the Australia-Thailand relationship in one place.
Next stop was Canberra airport – nearly didn’t make it back to co-host the dinner with Jennie Lang from the Asia Society. Our plane had a broken propeller and we were all disembarked. A highly surreal moment on the tarmac, calling the Thai delegation to see if we could get a ride on the PM’s plane, only to discover we wouldn’t make it, and chatting to the US Ambassador and other business and government reps about plan B. Fortunately Qantas came through and the next flight was ok, a dear client provided an express lift straight to the hotel and made it with 5 mins to spare.
The dinner was a whirlwind, HE Yingluck is a dynamo, and was keen to meet lots of representatives of the Thai -Australia Business relationship. The PM was accompanied by 70 leading Thai business people and four senior ministers, and it was a delight to meet so many strong advocates of collaboration.
On Tuesday, I was MC for the BOI ‘Unbeatable Thailand Seminar’ with the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary General of the Thailand Board of Investment and some great speakers from business and the National Economic and Social Development Board. Some fabulous case studies on the restructuring of Australian businesses to make the most of the ‘Asian Century’ and better position themselves to thrive in the changing economic context. The study of the Australian Business experience in Thailand presented by John Andersen, President of AustCham Thailand was also striking for its positive outlook.
Thailand invests nearly $5 bn in Australia and we invest only $1.9 billion in reverse. Thailand and Australia have two of the more resilient economies in the world, and it makes sense to further develop opportunities in a Southeast Asian region destined for significant future growth. The economic turmoil and declining markets of the past day heighten the importance of focusing on our own region and the opportunities provided there. I am looking forward to hosting a Boardroom lunch tomorrow with Asialink in Melbourne at Baker & Mackenzie to hear from Australian Ambassador James Wise regarding his insights and reflections on the visit.