Alibaba agrees to support Thai SMEs
The government yesterday clinched a letter of intent with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group on the cooperation, expansion and promotion of Thai small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The letter of intent also calls for Alibaba's assistance in developing Thailand's digital human resources and logistics systems and invites the Chinese firm to invest in Thailand's ambitious Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), which will run through Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao provinces.
The corridor has been designated for development as a high-tech industry cluster, with an eye towards becoming Asean's leading economic zone for industrial, infrastructure and urban development.
The project is meant to accommodate 10 targeted industries being promoted as clusters by the government.
Those industries are next-generation cars; smart electronics; affluent, medical and wellness tourism; agriculture and biotechnology; food; robotics for industry; logistics and aviation; biofuels and biochemicals; digital; and medical services.
The corridor will also rely on developments in transport infrastructure, including air, land, rail and water links.
The EEC is set to become an Asean water transport hub, linking the Dawei deep-sea port in Myanmar with Sihanoukville in Cambodia and Vung Tau in Vietnam.
Investors in the EEC will receive privileges such as land leases for 50 years and extensions of 49 years, visa-free grants for the import of skilled labour or executives, special tax perks and financial incentives.
According to Mr Somkid, the letter of intent also calls for Alibaba's cooperation in developing Thailand as Southeast Asia's digital and data centre hub.
Wiboonlasana Ruamraksa, the commerce permanent secretary, said the Commerce Ministry will develop e-commerce training courses for interested businesses and create an e-commerce platform that enables SMEs and farmers to sell their products directly to consumers.
According to Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the partnership could possibly include setting up a "new economy academy" in Thailand.
"Our trip this time is not aimed at enticing investment in Thailand," he said. "We're looking for partnership from the e-commerce giant to help provide e-commerce know-how not only to SMEs but also educational institutions and locally-based small or the grass-roots businesses. More importantly, [Alibaba founder] Jack Ma himself is ready to contribute."
Uttama Savanayana, an adviser to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, said the new economy academy may enlist the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank, Commerce Ministry, Digital Economy and Society Ministry, and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives.