Chinese firms strengthen ties on Thai trip
Thailand offers the greatest investment opportunity for Chinese companies out of more than 30 countries thanks to close cultural relations between the two nations and favourable conditions here, says Lu Junqing.
The chairman of the World Eminent Chinese Business Association (WECBA) and Global Top 500 Chinese Business Club specified Thailand as a priority destination for Chinese firms.
''Thailand and China have a very close relationship, partly because we are very close to each other. Thailand itself is a good location to do exports and imports,'' Mr Lu said yesterday on the sidelines of the Thai-Chinese Business Forum.
Headquartered in Beijing, the WECBA has more than 10,000 corporate members doing business in real estate, agriculture, energy, finance, technology and services.
Some 100 executives from 80 firms joined this week's mission to Thailand.
New Hope, an agriculture company whose business also includes real estate, has partnered with Thais to develop a property project in Phuket, while an energy firm is also setting up a joint venture in Thailand, said Mr Lu.
Industry Minister Prasert Boonchaisuk said Chinese applications approved by the Board of Investment (BoI) totalled 14 billion baht last year as bilateral trade reached US$70 billion.
The five-year Thailand-Chinese business plan through 2016 set a goal for bilateral trade growth of 20% a year, with investment and tourism surging 15% each.
According to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, 2.78 million Chinese tourists arrived in Thailand last year, up by 62% from 2011, out of a total of 22.3 million inbound tourists.
Thais arriving in China rose by 6.3% to 276,000 in 2012.
''We are positive about the outlook thanks to the stable political situation in Thailand and a corporate income tax rate that has been reduced to 20% from 30% ,'' said Mr Prasert.
''Chinese investors are also keen to take part in the government's 2-trillion-baht infrastructure investment here.''
Chokdee Kaewsang, deputy secretary-general of the BoI, said seven investment projects by Chinese firms worth a combined 1.14 billion baht were submitted in the first three months of this year, down from 1.9 billion a year earlier when the projects were larger.
Prospects remain rosy with two major Chinese car makers expressing interest in building their presence in Thailand.
One is Great Wall Motors, which announced plans to invest $340 million in Thailand at this year's Bangkok Motor Show.
Thailand is now the world's ninth-biggest producer of cars, with production exceeding 2 million units last year, while China has expertise in automotive technology, especially for electric vehicles, said Mr Chokdee.
Another potential avenue for Chinese investment is solar energy, he said.
China's Rich Foison Group yesterday signed a two-year contract with the Thai-based Maekhong River Rubber 2010 to import 10,000 tonnes a month of tapioca chips to the mainland, saying they are superior to cheaper tapioca in Vietnam.