Thailand can become the world's largest electric vehicle production hub with the support of Japan, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told the 27th International Conference on the Future of Asia organised by Nikkei Inc, also known as the Nikkei Forum, in Tokyo on Thursday.
He said Thailand would employ all resources at its disposal to upgrade the country's basic infrastructure, particularly in the digital technology and transport sectors, to enable investment in the Eastern Economic Corridor, which the government envisions as a hub for advanced industries.
Thailand aspires to be a global hub for EV-related products, which the government believes will help the country meet its goal of becoming a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2065.
At the forum, Gen Prayut said the goal could be achieved with the support of the Japanese government and businesses in the form of investments and technology transfers.
Japan is Thailand's second-largest trading partner and a top source of foreign investment, with about 5,000 Japanese companies having bases in the kingdom.
In addition to calling for more Japanese investment, the prime minister urged Tokyo to assist Thai companies which are looking to expand to Japan.
For example, he said, many Thai companies are keen to explore Japan's renewable energy sector and share their expertise in the field.
The forum came as Thailand readies to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit later in the year, which will be preceded by a series of ministerial meetings that will set the agenda for the leader's summit.
Gen Prayut admitted that hosting the Apec summit would be a challenge, especially since the world is only just beginning to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war is ongoing.
"The summit should be a stage where all opinions on global economic recovery should be heard," he said.
"Given the circumstances, it's not an easy job to do, but we need to move forward to achieve peace and economic growth in the region."
The prime minister pledged to use the summit to find a solution to many of the region's problems, and to restore prosperity and security in a sustainable manner.
He said all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations hope the Russia-Ukraine conflict ends soon, and Thailand is committed to giving humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The war is affecting daily life beyond the war zone as it has sent food and fuel prices soaring, he said.
Gen Prayut also shared three things he believes Asia can do collectively to ensure peace and security in the region.
"First, we must regenerate economic growth by keeping markets open and inclusive," he said.
"Sustainable economic growth is only possible when we are able to adapt to any disruptions and uncertainties in a timely manner and when the regional and global supply chains are both strong and resilient and always functioning," Gen Prayut added.
"Thailand will improve its business environment to ease trade and investment to further increase its competitiveness.
"The country will ensure an environment that is stable, predictable, innovative and enabling for business owners and investors, he said.
"Second, we must continue to lend support to the multilateral system because no country can tackle these challenges alone," he said.
"Third, Thailand believes that economic recovery must go hand in hand with sustainability."
Gen Prayut on Thursday met Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for the second time in a month. Mr Kishida visited Thailand on May 2 and offered a 50-billion-yen (13.45 billion baht) loan to help fund Thailand's post-Covid-19 economic recovery.
Gen Prayut also met the Japanese private sector to boost their confidence in Thailand and affirm the government's policy of support for foreign direct investment.
Speaking after meeting Mr Kishida, Gen Prayut said the government was delighted the Japanese government will begin accepting fully-vaccinated Thai tourists. He also invited more Japanese tourists to visit Thailand.
He said Mr Kishida was delighted to see Thailand and Japan cooperating to promote tourism.
The prime minister said Thailand is ready to welcome Mr Kishida, who will attend the Apec Summit in the kingdom in November.