Tariff cuts to spur investment in robotics

Tariff cuts to spur investment in robotics

YuMi, a barista robot from ABB Robotics, was among the highlights at the Manufacturing Expo 2016, held in Bangkok in June. Krit Promsaka na Sakolnakorn
YuMi, a barista robot from ABB Robotics, was among the highlights at the Manufacturing Expo 2016, held in Bangkok in June. Krit Promsaka na Sakolnakorn

The government plans to cut the import tariff on 51 categories of robotic parts in order to accelerate real investment in the industry, says Kanit Sangsubhan, chairman of the Finance Ministry's private investment promotion committee.

The move comes in response to requests by major private companies led by PTT Plc and Siam Cement Group Plc (SCG), which are interested in robotics -- one of the government's targeted cluster industries, he said.

Mr Kanit said the committee has agreed to cut the import tariff and is to submit the plan for cabinet approval soon.

"PTT and SCG as well as other robot-related companies are interested in investing in the robotics sector, which is one of the government's targeted industries.

"They asked for a tariff cut on some categories of parts that cannot be produced locally and are quite expensive to import. So, we expect the tariff cut should help speed up investment in the sector," Mr Kanit said.

Although importing completely built-up (CBU) robots is cheaper than importing completely knocked-down (CKD) robots, the companies and the committee agreed to import the latter as it would help support investment in the robotics industry, Mr Kanit said.

But the plan to cut import tariffs on robotic parts is only expected to be a short-term measure to spur investment in the sector, he added.

Mr Kanit said PTT Plc, the national oil and gas conglomerate, wants to develop its own robots to be used to conduct oil and gas pipeline inspections and was keen to import robotic parts to help the process.

An industry source said about eight robotics companies from Japan and the EU have started investing in Thailand, mostly at Hemaraj Chonburi Industrial Estate.

The Industry Ministry's permanent secretary Somchai Hanhiran said developing the robotics industry is one part of the government's Thailand 4.0 policy. The government also expects its efforts to promote investment in the Eastern Economic Corridor will help support the robotics industry as well.

"The government wants to promote the robotics industry to help it grow like the automotive industry, [with Thailand] ultimately becoming the robotics hub of Asean," he said.

According to the Board of Investment, investment applications in the robotics industry currently cover five projects worth 282 million baht.

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