The US-China trade war is a serious concern for Thailand that has the potential to undermine global business, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said.
“We have to alleviate this tension and create a greater balance,” Prayuth said in a speech at the Bloomberg Asean Business Summit in Bangkok on Friday. The trade dispute had led to “greater uncertainty in the global economic situation and greater competition,” he said, noting Thailand was trying to expedite the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade agreement.
“Even though the economy appears to slow down, the Thai economy still has good fundamentals for future growth,” Prayuth said. “The government will continue with the focus on infrastructure projects, investments in key industrial zones and support for the agricultural sector.”
Referencing the contested March 24 election that saw him win a second term in office, Prayuth said: “I can assure the private sector that Asean and Thailand are ready.”
Lawmakers backed Prayuth to return as premier in a parliamentary vote held more than two months after a disputed general election in March. The former army chief seized power in a coup in 2014 after a period of unrest, ushering in one of Thailand’s longest spells under a junta until this year’s vote.
He now leads a sprawling 19-party, pro-military coalition with only a slim majority in the elected lower house, leading to speculation his administration may struggle to complete its four-year term.
An opposition bloc that’s fiercely critical of what it sees as the continuation of military rule controls almost half the lower house, raising the possibility of friction that could hamper policy making.
Prayuth was elected prime minister in a joint vote of the elected lower chamber and junta-appointed Senate.
His return marks a victory for the military and royalist elite in Bangkok, who have used the courts or coups to overturn election results for more than a decade to prevent exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra or his allies from retaining power.
The incoming administration faces the weakest economic growth since 2014 as exports, investment and tourism fizzle.
Prayuth has prioritized infrastructure and technological upgrades, as well as removing red tape, to bolster the outlook for Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.
Some major projects were slowed by the delay in government formation after the March election. Prayuth’s choice of Cabinet ministers needs endorsement by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, and key policies are expected to be unveiled by July.
Thailand is the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this year and hosting the 34th summit of the 10-nation bloc’s leaders through Sunday.
The government has said Thailand will use its position as Asean chair to push for the finalization of the 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade pact—which is backed by China—before the end of 2019.