Thailand - Country Commercial Guide
Limitations on Selling US Products and Services

Provides information on any manufacturing sectors or services where only citizens or a sub-set of the population in that country are allowed to own or sell.

Last published date: 2019-10-13

According to the Foreign Business Act (FBA) of 1999, certain types of business activities are reserved for Thai nationals only.  Foreign investment in those businesses must be comprised of less than 50% of the share capital unless specially permitted or otherwise exempt.
The following lists, attached as annexes to the FBA, detail restricted businesses for foreigners:
List 1:  The following list contains activities prohibited to non-nationals, including:

  • Newspaper or radio broadcasting stations and radio and television station businesses
  • Rice farming and growing plantations or crops
  • Livestock farming
  • Forestry and timber processing from a natural forest
  • Fishing in Thai territorial waters and specific economic zones
  • Extraction of Thai medicinal herbs
  • Trading and auctioning of antique objects or objects of historical value from Thailand
  • Making or casting of Buddha images and monk alms bowls
  • Land trading
List 2:  The following list contains activities related to national safety or security, or those which affect arts and culture, tradition, folk handicrafts, or natural resources and the environment.  Among other things, they include:
  • The production, sale, and maintenance of firearms and armaments.
  • Domestic transportation by land, water, and air.
  • Trading of Thai antiques or art objects.
  • Mining, including rock blasting and rock crushing.
  • Timber processing for production of furniture and utensils.
Remark: A foreign majority-owned company can engage in List 2 activities if Thai nationals or legal persons hold not less than 40% of the total shares, and the number of Thai directors is not less than two-fifths of the total number of directors.
Exceptions exist for conpanies that receive the following:
  • Permission from the Minister of Commerce with approval by the Cabinet (if there is a reasonable cause, the Minister, with the approval of the Cabinet, may reduce the Thai shareholding requirement, which cannot be less than 25% of the total shares).
  • Investment promotion from the Board of Investment
  • Authorization by the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand
  • Permission under a treaty to which Thailand is bound
List 3:  The following list contains activities in which there are economic protections for Thai nationals.  Among other things, they include:
  • Accounting, legal, architectural, or engineering services
  • Retail and wholesale
  • Advertising businesses
  • Hotels
  • Guided touring
  • Selling food or beverages
  • Any kind of service business
There are exceptions to List 3 that exist for conpanies that receive the following:
  • Permission from the Director-General of the Department of Business Development at the Ministry of Commerce, with approval by the Foreign Business Committee, on obtaining a Foreign Business License.
  • Investment promotion from the Board of Investment or from the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand, on obtaining a Foreign Business Certificate from the Director-General of the Department of Business Development at the Ministry of Commerce.
  • Protection under a treaty or obligation to which Thailand is bound, including the U.S. Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations (please see below for further information on the U.S. Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations); the Thai-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA); Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA); and ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS).  Each of these agreements and treaties allow companies to obtain a Foreign Business Certificate from the Director-General of the Department of Business Development at the Ministry of Commerce.
Further restrictions on foreign ownership in specific sectors, such as telecommunications, banking, and insurance, are regulated in specific laws pertaining to these sectors, such as the Telecommunications Business Act (2006), the Financial Institution Business Act (2008), the Life Insurance Act (1992), and the Non-Life Insurance Act (1992).

The U.S.-Thai Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations of 1833:
Commonly referred to as the “Treaty of Amity,” the U.S.-Thai Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations of 1833 creates a special economic relationship between the U.S. and the Kingdom of Thailand that gives special rights and benefits to U.S. citizens who wish to establish their businesses in Thailand.  The Treaty of Amity was amended in 1966 and provides two major benefits:
  • American companies are permitted to be a majority shareholder or to wholly own company or branch offices in Thailand.
  • American companies receive national treatment, meaning U.S. firms may engage in business on the same basis as Thai companies and are exempt from most of the restrictions on foreign investment imposed by the Alien Business Law of 1972.
Despite the Treaty of Amity, there are still certain restrictions on U.S. investment.  Those restrictions are as follows:
  • Owning land
  • Engaging in inland transportation and communication industries
  • Engaging in fiduciary functions
  • Engaging in banking involving depository functions
  • Engaging in domestic trade in indigenous agricultural products
  • Exploiting land or other natural resources

The Commercial Section at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok is responsible for issuing a certification letter to confirm the applicant is qualified to apply for protection under the Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations of 1833.  The applicant must first obtain documents verifying that the company has been registered in compliance with Thai law.  Upon receipt of the required documents, the Commercial Section will then certify to the Thai Department of Commercial Registration in the Ministry of Commerce that the applicant is seeking to register an American-owned and managed company, or that the applicant is an American citizen and is therefore entitled to national treatment under the provisions of the Treaty.  For more information on how to apply for protection under the Treaty of Amity, please e-mail: office.bangkok@trade.gov.