Ma poised to reveal EEC investment

Ma poised to reveal EEC investment

Alibaba advance team due in Bangkok on Friday

Mr Ma speaking to Thai businessmen while attending the ACD Summit in 2016. CHANAT KATANYU
Mr Ma speaking to Thai businessmen while attending the ACD Summit in 2016. CHANAT KATANYU

Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, will visit Thailand next month to announce the group's future investment in the Thai government's flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme, says the Industry Ministry.

An advance team of the Chinese magnate's Alibaba is due in Bangkok on Friday. Mr Ma will arrive in the third week of April to finalise the plan.

Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana said the Alibaba executive plans to visit Thailand to meet with government representatives.

"Alibaba can confirm it [Alibaba] will invest in Chachoengsao, one of the three EEC provinces, but the company itself will announce further details later," he said.

Mr Uttama said the group plans to set up a logistics centre to support its e-commerce operations in Asean.

Alibaba's R&D unit and business development centre for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are expected to be in the EEC.

Mr Uttama said Alibaba wants to use the country as a logistics base to provide products through its website, not only in Thailand but also Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The group wants to link all five countries in the Indochina region to the global market, Mr Uttama said.

Thai SMEs are set to serve as Alibaba's supply chain to provide products through the group's e-commerce website.

The government expects the move to further drive investment from other foreign companies.

Mr Uttama said Huawei Technologies Co, the world's largest telecom gear maker, is in talks with the government on a business expansion plan in the EEC.

"Huawei wants to open a second digital lab centre in the EEC after the first one opened in Bangkok [last year]," he said.

The digital lab is an R&D centre intended to serve Huawei's business in the country.

"The other project Huawei is interested in is the government's smart city scheme, which is set to drive high technology and innovative production," Mr Uttama said.

The EEC scheme is expected to drive economic growth through next-generation industry, in line with the Thailand 4.0 initiative.

The government has approved a land plot of 18,000 rai to service the EEC scheme.

In the past, 30,000 rai had been set aside to facilitate investment in the country.

Huawei is conducting a feasibility study for the smart city scheme as it plans to support the government's development efforts to that end.

Mr Uttama said the ministry has tasked the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) with studying and developing the new 1,500-rai Smart Park.

That industrial estate, with an investment value of 2 billion baht, is poised to serve the next generation of industry, including automation, robotics, renewable energy and digital efforts.

The IEAT expects to construct the Smart Park in 2020.

The Smart Park, to be located in Map Ta Phut, Rayong, is the first project for high tech in Thailand aimed at serving 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.

(NOTE: An earlier version of this story stated incorrectly that Mr Ma would arrive in Bangkok on Friday.)

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