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Dialogue Program EU-ASEAN as Strategic Partners for Growth and Prosperity

MP Gunther Krichbaum's Visit in Thailand

From 20th-26th March 2023, KAS Thailand organized a dialogue program for Mr. Gunther Krichbaum, Member of the German Bundestag and European Policy Spokesperson of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group, and Dr. Carsten Buchholz, Head of MP Krichbaum’s office, to meet with various stakeholders in Thailand as well as KAS cooperation partners. The topics discussed during this seven-day program included political and economic developments in Thailand and Southeast Asia, trade prospects between Thailand and the EU with the current negotiations of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two entities, democratic developments in the country and the civic engagement of the civil society, youth participation, and German-Thai cooperation. On this occasion, Dr. Céline-Agathe Caro, Director of the KAS Office in Thailand, led the visit and accompanied the visitors throughout the program.

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Economic Cooperation

MP Krichbaum and the delegation met with the Deputy Chief of Mission and the Head of Trade and Economic Affairs of the EU Delegation in Thailand. The goal was to discuss current developments regarding the EU-ASEAN cooperation after Thailand and the EU signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in December 2022 and resumed negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement in March 2023. The delegation also met with the president and board members of the German-Thai Chamber of Commerce (GTCC) as well as representatives of German companies to exchange about doing business in Thailand. Topics like digitalization, working cultures, opportunities and challenges of the Thai market, and market competition in Southeast Asia played an important role in the discussion. The participants also discussed the significance of a EU-Thai FTA for German and Thai entrepreneurs in the country.

To gain first-hand information on this topic, MP Krichbaum visited three German companies in different provinces. He met with Mr. Mark Berger, Chief Executive Officer of Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing (Thailand) Ltd. During the plant visit, the visitors learned more about the economic context and Mercedes’ investment in the country as well as implications of an EU-Thai FTA for the company. Furthermore, MP Krichbaum visited Breuning Co.Ltd, a German family enterprise producing jewelry, whose headquarters are in Pforzheim – the MP’s constituency in Germany. Mr. Krichbaum asked the Managing Director, Mr. Roman Heffels, about the company’s rationale for investing in Bangkok and the role of Thailand in Breuning’s production chain. In Chiang Mai, MP Krichbaum and the delegation visited Bluechips Microhouse Co., Ltd. and discussed with Mr. Thomas Zimpfer, the Founder and Managing Director, about Thailand’s attractiveness for German companies and potential advantages of a EU-Thai FTA. On this occasion, MP Krichbaum and the delegation also met with Mr. Sebastian-Justus Schmidt, the German Honorary Consul in Chiang Mai and also the Chairman of Enapter, a German company focusing on green hydrogen technologies and building green energy systems.

Democratic Development and the Work of Civil Society Organizations

Apart from economic issues, MP Krichbaum and the delegation had the opportunity to discuss democratic developments in Thailand. The Thai Parliament was dissolved on the first day of the MP’s program, resulting in the cancellation of a Courtesy Call to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and a visit of the new parliament building, but the visitors met with a number of policy makers and representatives of the civil society and the media.

With Mr. Saksith Saiyasombut, Thailand correspondent of Channel News Asia (CNA), MP Krichbaum and the delegation learned about Thailand’s democratization process as well as human rights and key legal developments in the country. In another roundtable meeting, they talked to Thai policy makers and academics, i.e. Mr. Chaturon Chaisang, a former deputy prime minister, and Mr. Nitipon Piwmow, a member of the Thai Parliament in the latest legislative term. The conversation focused on the recent dissolution of the Thai parliament as well as Thailand’s education system, skills of Thai students, and the relevance of second and even third languages for employment purposes, international trade, as well as environmental and wildlife protection schemes.

To hear more from actors in the field of policy developments, MP Krichbaum also met with representatives from Thai civil society organizations, namely Forward Foundation and Bangkok Tribune News Agency, and Thai participants in a KAS regional program called “Konrad Adenauer School for Young Politicians” (KASYP). They discussed the work and role of the civil society in the country. Discussion topics included academic skills, democratic awareness, youth participation in policy-making, the significance of digitalization in policy processes and civic engagement, media's role in environmental protection in Thailand and neighboring countries, as well as vocational training for small local businesses.

Exchange with Students and Academics

In Chiang Mai, MP Krichbaum and Dr. Buchholz joined as speakers in a public seminar with Thai and German students on “Current Developments in the EU among Rising Economic and Political Tensions on the World Stage and the EU-ASEAN Cooperation” at the Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration of the Chiang Mai University (CMU). The Bundestag representatives mentioned Europe’s past to explain the EU’s integration project as a source of peace, stability, and prosperity on the continent. They focused on the importance of international cooperation and multilateralism for security, growth, and trade. Professors and academics provided comments and opened the stage for an exchange between the MP and the participants. This seminar could attract over 60 students from Chiang Mai University, the Christian German School Chiang Mai, and some local high schools of the province.

MP Krichbaum and the delegation also gathered with a group of academics and professors from the Faculty of Political Science at CMU. The Dean of the Faculty, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pailin Phujeenaphan, led the discussion together with the deputy deans and also Prof. Dr. Tanet Charoenmuang, Chairperson of the Creative Urban Solutions Center at CMU. They discussed China’s influence in Northern Thailand and the role of Japanese investments in the country, internal developments within ASEAN and purposes of regional cooperation, common ground for more cooperation between the EU and ASEAN, and Thailand’s progress in participatory democracy.

In Bangkok, Dr. Buchholz also participated in a roundtable discussion with KASSID scholars, the Thai students receiving a scholarship from the KAS Office in Thailand under the program “Konrad Adenauer Scholarship for Social and Innovative Development”. The scholars learned about the EU’s core values, Germany’s democratization process after WWII, EU policies to ensure rule of law and democracy in all 27 member states as well as the EU’s engagement with ASEAN amidst growing regional tensions. Moreover, Dr. Buchholz explained the German parliamentary system to the audience, which brought up exchanges between him and the young scholars. Topics related to creating democratic awareness, human rights, and fair social justice were also addressed.

German-Thai Cooperation ​​​​​​

Thailand and Germany just celebrated their 160th anniversary of diplomatic relations last year. The two countries have been partners in various development fields, such as economy, trade, infrastructure, education, culture, and environmental protection for decades. During the dialogue program, MP Krichbaum also met with representatives of several German institutions and discussed German-Thai cooperation and developments on the ground. A briefing with Mr. Hans-Ulrich Südbeck, Deputy Head of Mission of the German Embassy in Bangkok, was followed by a dinner talk which representatives from the German Embassy, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung, Goethe-Institut, and the German-Southeast Asian Center of Excellence for Public Policy and Good Governance (CPG). Topics discussed included the future of EU-ASEAN relations in terms of democracy, economy, and foreign policies with a focus on the FTA, learning German in Thailand, and challenges that the German foundations and institutes have faced in their work both in the country and the region. Moreover, in a separate meeting with GIZ Thailand, MP Krichbaum and the delegation exchanged with Dr. Nana Kuenkel, Director and Cluster Coordinator Agriculture and Food, and Dr. Dominika Kalinowska, Director Transport Projects Thailand/ ASEAN, about renewable energy, energy transition, urban planning in relation to climate change mitigation and sustainable rice production in Thailand. Last but not least, Dr. Buchholz met with representatives of the German protestant and catholic church in Thailand to discuss their work with the local German community as well as Christianism in Thailand and the role of Thailand’s main religions in Thai society.

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Contact

Dr. Céline-Agathe Caro

Dr

Head of the KAS office in Thailand

Celine.Caro@kas.de +66 (0) 2 714 1207 +66 2 714 13 07

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