Laos is chairing Asean this year. Source: Wikimedia
US Secretary of State John Kerry is in Laos, where he will lay the groundwork for a February summit with Asean leaders that will be hosted by President Barack Obama.
Kerry arrived in Vientiane before stopping in Cambodia and China where the South China Sea dispute and growing concerns about North Korea’s nuclear programme will top the agenda.
In February, Obama will host a special Asean summit in California to strengthen economic and cultural ties. Obama travels to Laos for another Asean summit later in the year.
Kerry will continue talks promoting US ties with Cambodia, which has one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, although Washington said it was concerned about internal political disputes.
“The relationship between the ruling party and the opposition party is fraught right now,” said a State Department official, who said Kerry would meet opposition and civil society leaders as well as Cambodia’s premier and foreign minister.
Troubled neighbouring Thailand has been voted 21st in a US News and World list of the 60 “best countries”.
The kingdom is in the top 10 in three categories: fourth in adventure; eighth in heritage and 10th in terms of being open for business.
BAV Consulting and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, apparently based on 16,000 survey participants, conducted the rankings.
Thailand was ranked number one in the starting up a business category, thanks to the 28-day process and low costs.
It said Thailand was the 26th best place to choose for a headquarters based on interviews with more than 4,000 business decision-makers. Factors included the connection to the rest of the world, corruption, economic stability, how educated the population was and how the favourability of the tax environment.
Canada topped this ranking despite having a corporate income tax of 26 per cent, compared to Thailand’s 20 per cent.
In an unrelated development, the Thai Meteorological Department has warned northern residents to brace for a cold snap as high pressure has moved down from China.
A drop of six to 10 degrees Celsius is expected following storms and strong winds.
Temperatures are expected to fall as low as eight degrees in the north the Northeast and 16 in Bangkok.