Boeing mulls EEC investment

Boeing mulls EEC investment

Nok Air staff tend to a Boeing 737-800 at Don Mueang airport. US-based Boeing is eyeing the Eastern Economic Corridor for potential projects.
Nok Air staff tend to a Boeing 737-800 at Don Mueang airport. US-based Boeing is eyeing the Eastern Economic Corridor for potential projects.

US aerospace giant Boeing is keen on investing in making aircraft parts and setting up a training centre in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) area.

According to Ralph Boyce, president of Boeing Southeast Asia, who met Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak yesterday, the company is preparing an EEC investment plan, with a final decision to be reached soon.

Mr Boyce served as the US ambassador to Thailand from 2005-07.

The EEC is a project that has been heavily promoted by the government as a new special economic zone to attract foreign investment.

The corridor spanning more than 30,000 rai in the three eastern provinces of Rayong, Chon Buri and Chachoengsao is projected to help generate new investment of up to 1.5 trillion baht within five years from both the government and the private sector.

The area is meant to be Thailand's new growth engine through 10 targeted industries: 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.

"It's now an appropriate time for Boeing to invest in the EEC," Mr Boyce said. "If we don't make a decision now, this opportunity will fly."

According to Mr Boyce, the EEC is offering a good opportunity for investment, with the aviation industry looking promising over the next 20 years as new airlines emerge.

"High demand for captains, aircraft, a maintenance centre and parts are thus anticipated over this period," he said. "Currently, Boeing supplies parts for many airlines, including Thai Airways International (THAI), and has its regional headquarters in Singapore, where operations range from commercial aircraft and defence procurement, services support and training, to advanced research collaboration with the public and private sectors."

Mr Somkid said investment by Boeing would be significant for Thailand, as this would signal warmer ties with the US. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is scheduled to visit Washington in July.

The US ranks as Thailand's fourth-biggest investing nation after Japan, Singapore and Indonesia, with a total investment of US$921 million (31.3 billion baht) in 2016, according to Board of Investment data.

The US is Thailand's third-largest trading partner after China and Japan. Two-way trade between Thailand and the US amounted to US$36.5 billion in 2016.

Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office, said flag carrier THAI is expected to be able to sign a joint venture deal with Airbus to establish an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centre in the EEC in the first quarter of next year.

The government in March this year approved an aviation reform plan that aims to enhance Thailand's status as the region's aviation hub.

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