Thai Commerce Ministry set to liberalise ten service businesses this year

The Business Development Department under the Commerce Ministry is anticipated to liberalise ten service businesses within this year, encompassing sectors like telecommunications services, treasury centres, and currency exchange businesses. Director-General Auramon Supthaweethum stated that the department has already completed studies on eight of these businesses, with the remaining two set to open for public hearings soon.

As soon as the public hearings for the last two service businesses conclude, the department is expected to propose them to Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai for approval, followed by a final endorsement from the cabinet. These ten service businesses fall under List 3 of the Foreign Business Act 1999. With Cabinet approval, foreign businesses operating these services in Thailand will no longer need to seek permission under the law.

The Foreign Business Act of 1999 comprises three lists detailing activities where foreign participation might be banned or restricted. List 1 includes businesses forbidden to foreigners for specific reasons. Foreign companies face restrictions when engaging in activities.

List 2, includes businesses related to national safety or security, or those that impact arts and culture, traditional and folk handicraft, or natural resources and environment. Foreign companies can only participate in activities listed under List 2 with prior cabinet approval.

List 3 designates businesses where Thai nationals may not be ready to compete with foreigners. A foreign company must apply for and obtain a Foreign Business License before commencing any activity.

In the past, the Commerce Ministry issued regulations to exempt certain service businesses from the requirement of obtaining permission under the act. The most recent exemption was granted to commercial banking, life insurance, non-life insurance, domestic lending services, securities, and other businesses related to securities and the capital market, as well as forward contracts.

Auramon shared that the service businesses expected to be liberalised this year include telecom services, under the first type of telecommunications business licence per the Telecommunications Business Act, treasury centre services, currency exchange businesses, and software development services reported Bangkok Post.

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