Alibaba EEC drive to start in 2017
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group expects to start investing in its production and logistics hub in Thailand's Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) this year, says Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana.
The project, named "Fifth generation e-commerce park", would be more than just a logistics hub to support Alibaba's e-commerce business in the region. It would also house production plants for Thai and foreign small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), said Mr Uttama.
"Alibaba's fifth generation e-commerce park is a new business model for this region. It will include a production plant, logistics centre and a training centre for Thai and foreign SMEs," he said after a meeting with executives of Lazada Group, an Alibaba subsidiary.
Alibaba's investment in the EEC is part of the Thai government's attempt to attract foreign investors to expand their business in the targeted EEC sectors.
The EEC spans a combined 30,000 rai in the provinces of Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao to accommodate investment in 10 targeted industries. These 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.
Mr Uttama said Alibaba is drafting an investment plan that should be finalised by May, when the company's executives are due to meet the Industry Minister again to talk about more details.
He said the first phase of the e-commerce park is due to start construction soon after the company finalises its investment plan. The full scale of investment will take place over a period of years.
"Alibaba insisted it will invest in the EEC because it is the most interesting area with attractive investment offers, located in the centre of Asean. The location makes it a perfect logistics hub for Alibaba," said Mr Uttama.
He said Alibaba is about to select a location for its park from five options in the EEC area.
The company wants to use Thailand to be a production base for Asean, particularly Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, linking to global markets in the future, said Mr Uttama.
"Alibaba's investment here will be different from that in Malaysia, where it is expected to be an e-commerce platform only. In contrast, its investment in Thailand will be broader, covering production platforms," he said.