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Brands to go

At first blush, Thai Union Frozen Products Public Company seems to be a poster child of the new Thai economy.

Thai Union, established in 1988, a world leader in one of Thailand's key exports, food processing, is one of the largest OEM seafood suppliers into the world market. Yet arguably, its achievements have come in spite of, rather than as a result of, Thaksinomics.

In 2000, Thai Union moved into the higher-value, branded products business by acquiring the established US brand Chicken of the Sea. It has since acquired Empress International, another US branded seafood business. For president of Thai Union, Thiraphong Chansiri, the problem was that as an exporter his company does not benefit from the strong Thai domestic economy.

"My business has nothing to do with the domestic economy," he says, "it's pretty much a dollar economy company: 95% of my business is export ? 55% to the US. The strong domestic economy can hurt me: higher interest rates, higher costs ? energy, construction, labour shortages, a strong currency."

He supports efforts to stimulate domestic demand rather than rely on export-led growth but believes that Thai domestic markets remain too small to develop the brands crucial to long-term economic prosperity.

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