While committing to improve the investment environment in his country, Thai Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyuth urged Japanese business leaders to promote exports from their industrial ventures in the ailing Southeast Asian economy.Chavalit requested such efforts particularly in the automobile, automotive parts, electronics, information technology and food processing industries.Speaking at a luncheon meeting in Tokyo, Chavalit said Thailand has simplified procedures to obtain visas by establishing the One-Stop-Service Center for Visas and Work Permits. The meeting was hosted by the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Japanese Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai), the Japan Federation of Employers’ Association (Nikkeiren) and other economic organizations, “We are also amending regulations so that foreigners may hold majority stakes in companies manufacturing for the domestic market,” Chavalit said. “We will also expedite the process of amending the Alien Business Law so that foreign shareholdings in businesses, particularly large trading companies engaged in export activities, will be made more flexible.”The Thai prime minister at the same time called on Japanese businesses to assist small and medium-size Thai suppliers with technical assistance and technology transfers. He asked Japanese banks, which are the leading lenders to Thailand, to be more flexible by rolling over short-term loans and becoming proactive in extending higher levels of new loans.In an effort to ensure support from the Japanese business sector, Chavalit also held meetings at a Tokyo hotel with leaders of Japanese corporations that actively participate in business in Thailand. He met separately with executives from Honda Motor Co., Mitsubishi Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Mitsui & Co., Sony Corp. and Suzuki Motor Co., and urged them to use Thailand as their export base. He also met top officials from the Export-Import Bank of Japan.”The prime minister asked us to increase our exports from Thailand and raise local contents of our cars manufactured in Thailand,” said Yoshihide Munekuni, chairman of Honda Motor. “I told him we cannot drastically increase, but we will steadily do so over the years.”Hirokazu Nakamura, chairman of Mitsubishi Motors, said he pledged to increase its exports of pickup trucks from Thailand by five times to 80,000 units by 2000 from 12,500 units in 1996.Chavalit is also scheduled to meet leaders from Toyota Motor Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., Sakura Bank, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and Sumitomo Bank Oct. 10.

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