The US’s pullout from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade agreement will give Thailand some leeway to manage its regional geo-economic position, especially with regard to the country’s attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment.
Prior to the US election, Thailand was under pressure to start negotiating entry to the powerful group, which includes Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and other Asia-Pacific countries. Japanese companies, in particular, were worried Thailand would lose competitive advantages if it did not quickly sign up to the TPP and thereby secure Japanese investment.
With Trump’s surprise election victory, the outlook for ASEAN countries reversed in favour of the China-led alternative free-trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which excludes the US. At this stage, Thailand will be more comfortable with the RCEP’s advancement while Malaysia and Vietnam will have to rethink, since their advantage as TPP members is no longer secure.