From Beijing to New Dehli, then home to Denmark for six years and now back again; the region of Asia is not an unfamiliar place to Peter Sand, the new Trade Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission to the Danish Embassy in Thailand. Starting in the private sector, he moved to the Danish Foreign Ministry in 2002, where he have served on a number of prominent positions, among other things as the personal assistant to Uffe Elleman. Now, he is ready to carry out a new position abroad, this time in Thailand.
“I have now come to an easier part of Asia, if you can say so, but there are both many opportunities and challenges to be looked into here, so I was very happy when I was offered this position and the opportunity to return to Asia,” Peter says, when ScandAsia talked with him in his office at the Danish Embassy in Bangkok.
“You can say that I am an ‘Asia-freak’,” he adds with a smile.
Peter’s career in the Danish Foreign Ministry started in Beijing, where he set out as sector expert within energy and environment. Unlike his colleagues in the Foreign Ministry, Peter was not the poster boy for a job in the there because he came in from the private sector.
“I was an untraditional candidate for a position in the Foreign Ministry because of my background in mainly private companies. However, at that point I had been to China on several occasions and found China a super interesting place, so I applied for a job at the Embassy in Beijing and got it,” he explains.
Peter was in Beijing for five years and a part of the Danish Foreign Ministry, which allowed him to transfer to a position at the Danish Embassy in New Dehli. After three years in India, he returned to Denmark for six years, where he mostly worked for the Trade Council in Copenhagen.
In 2011, he became the personal assistant to the former Danish Foreign Minister, Uffe Elleman, who at that point served as Export Ambassador to India. However, Peter’s job did not last long, because the Export Ambassador initiative was abolished four months after it commenced.
“The Export Ambassadors existed from June to November 2011. I remember, because Uffe Elleman was informed, on his 70 years birthday, that the Export Ambassadors set-up was discontinued,” Peter says.
“But I had some intense few, but super interesting and exciting months with Uffe,” he adds.
In his new position in Thailand, Peter functions both as Trade Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission at the Danish Embassy in Bangkok. The two former separate posts have merged and is now under his jurisdiction. However, as Peter underlines, trade and commerce come first.
“I have an economic and commercial profile, so commercial matters have first priority to me,” he says.
An increasing number of businesses are setting up in Cambodia instead of Thailand, because of the extensive requirements and bureaucracy in Thailand, which is a problem Peter intends to solve in his new position.
“We are teaming up with the authorities here in Thailand, such as the Board of Investment (BoI) and the Ministry of Commerce, to make it easier for Danish companies to set up businesses out here,” Peter says.
“At the moment we are, together with the Thai authorities, offering service packages that include tax reliefs, help with work permits and additional paper work, especially for applications for BoI support,” he explains.
Peter is also aware that the price the Trade Council charges for its services in some situations may be seen as high. With a cost of DKK 935 per hour, some business might tail off, but Peter argues that the Council is flexible and ready to come up with an offer.
“We are aware that Danish companies may find cheaper solutions but our hourly rate is not really an issue in our discussions with Danish companies. We offer package deals and the price depends on the hours used. In case of fewer hours, we pay back our customers,” he says.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is also a priority for Peter, who, among other things, have been responsible for the SME activities of the Trade Council in Copenhagen.
“We have come to a point, where an increasing number of the bigger Danish companies are getting active in Thailand. As the number of big and medium-sized businesses gradually dries up, we need to start doing more for the small businesses also, when they are ready to engage with Thailand” Peter says.
As a part of this new focus on SMEs, Peter hopes a Danish company in Thailand will get enrolled in the Vitus programme, a project established by the Danish The Trade Council that provides support for small and medium-sized Danish companies with an international growth potential.
“We will do a lot for a Danish company out here to get accepted for the Vitus programme, and as I know, in all modesty, a lot about SMEs and the program, I think it could be very interesting,” Peter says.
“That is one of my main ambitions,” he adds.
Peter’s family has not moved with him to Thailand. His wife works for the International Office at Aalborg University’s branch in Copenhagen, but will come live with him in Thailand at a later stage. His two daughters, who are 18 and 21 years old, will not move to Thailand, but plan to do an internship or travel to the country.
Peter will serve as Trade Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission for the next four years.