Portugal eyes Asia trade to revive economy

BANGKOK - In spite of being one of the European Union countries facing serious fiscal problems, Portugal has shown good signs of recovery with a brighter outlook for higher exports and a closer trade-and-investment relationship with Thailand, the country's ambassador to Thailand told The Nation.

Jorge Torres Pereira said his country was seeing more and more evidence of good news, mainly improvements in exports.

"The trade balance has improved. Business confidence is returning. We know that the growth will be outside Europe. We are confident of being a part of it as export outside the European single market has increased to a large degree," the ambassador said.

He said his country wanted to be more active in Thailand and elsewhere in Asia as this region has become more and more important.

According to the embassy, Portuguese exports to non-traditional markets rose significantly by 23 per cent during the first 11 months this year compared with the same period last year. Shipments to non-EU markets accounted for 25 per cent of total export value. Overall exports grew by 7.7 per cent in the first 11 months, while imports diminished by 5 per cent.

Torres Pereira predicted that as exports recovered, Portugal's economy would restructure itself. More trade will grow outside the EU markets. The economy should get out of recession within the next few years.

With Portugal's strongly positive attitude towards non-European markets and its good relationship with Thailand for more than 500 years, the ambassador is confident in promoting more trade and investment between the two countries.

The Asean Economic Community will also increase the attractiveness of Thailand for investment into the country and the region.

The ambassador said Portugal could form triangular ventures with Thailand to access the Myanmar market.

The Portuguese government "wants to raise awareness on investment opportunities for Portuguese entrepreneurs in Thailand. The embassy will set up a trade mission in the first quarter of next year to promote trade, service and investment growth," Torres Pereira said.

The mission will focus on a variety of sectors in line with the move towards a free-trade agreement between the EU and Thailand. Potential sectors are tourism, green energy including solar and wind power, innovation industries, machinery production with research and development, agricultural industries, foods, paper, textiles and garments, and wine trading.

About 20 businesspeople from Portugal are expected to join the mission.

The ambassador explained that his country was currently promoting foreign direct investment (FDI) by providing many incentives. For example, a "Golden Residence Permit" will be among the special privileges granted to investors that create capital transfers equal to or above 1 million euros (S$1.6 million), create at least 30 jobs, or acquire real estate with a value equal to or above 500,000 euros (S$800,000).

He added that Thai investors should also increase their awareness of opportunities for FDI in Portugal, as they would not only access 10 million people in Portugal itself, but also 240 million in Portuguese-speaking countries such as Brazil and Angola.

Portugal turned to the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund for bailouts worth 78 billion euros (S$125 billion) in 2011. It has been forced to adopt an austerity programme by cutting spending and raising taxes to get its fiscal position in better shape. So far it has received 61 billion euros (S$98 billion).

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