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Easing Asian investment in Europe a top agenda

Publication Date : 15-10-2012


Asian firms want Europe to make it easier for them to take over or merge with European businesses, and the issue will be discussed at the 10th Asia-Europe Finance Ministers Meeting today, said Somchai Sujjapongse, director-general of Thailand's Fiscal Policy Office.

Finance Ministers from Asia and Europe will exchange views on three main issues, said Somchai, who chaired a meeting of high-level financial officials yesterday.

The most important topic on the meeting's agenda is how to promote trade and investment flows between the two regions, he told reporters yesterday.

Multinational companies from Europe have a long history of investing in Asia, while Asian investment in Europe is still limited, he said. Europe should promote investment by big as well as small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from Asia, he said.

"There are some obstacles; for instance, Europe should make it much easier for Asian firms to take over, merge with or form joint ventures with local European firms," Somchai said.

15 finance ministers from Europe and 14 from Asia will attend the meeting today. They are also scheduled to discuss economic imbalances between East and West, as Asia has a current account surplus with the West.

"We in Asia want to use our current account surplus to support Europe, for instance via investment and economic stimulus," Somchai said.

The two sides will discuss the state of the global economy and progress on measures that the two sides have implemented so far, he said.

The ministers are expected to issue a joint statement today and the results of the meeting will be forwarded to the Asia-Europe Leaders Summit in Vientiane in November, Somchai said.

Areepong Bhoocha-oom, permanent secretary for finance, said Europe needs growth to get out of its current crisis, similar to the way that Thailand successfully drew on more investment during the 1997 financial crisis.

Many European countries cannot use the exchange-rate mechanism to boost exports as they use a common currency, the euro, said Areepong.

Large Thai companies such as Thai Union Frozen Products, one of the country's leading food producers, have already invested in many countries in Europe, including a recent venture into Italy. Asian SMEs may have potential to invest there - Thai restaurants, for example - and could create jobs for local people, he said. "Europe should make more information available about investment promotion."

The meeting is not intended as a negotiation session, but as a forum for exchanging information, Aree-pong said.


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