Japan's FDI lead tenuous as EEC targets other nations
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Japan's FDI lead tenuous as EEC targets other nations

GUANGZHOU: With years of Japan controlling a huge chunk of foreign direct investment in Thailand, Kobsak Pootrakool, the PM's Office Minister, says Chinese investment is approaching, fast and furious, and is expected to topple Japan for the lead in 10 years.

Speaking at a seminar in Guangzhou titled "Driving Transformation through Thailand 4.0 and EEC" organised on Wednesday by the Board of Investment (BoI), in which 600 Chinese companies participated, Mr Kobsak said the government sees potential in Chinese investors' rapid developments in high technology.

He cited the Bank of Thailand, noting that Chinese investment in Thailand dramatically increased to US$8.19 billion (268 billion baht) in 2017 compared with just $70 million in 2008.

Mr Kobsak urged Chinese investors to plough more funds into Thailand, pointing out that the government's Thailand 4.0 policy with BoI privileges for many industries is in their favour, especially the 11 targeted industries, which encompass areas China excels in, such as artificial intelligence, digital, smart automobiles and robots, bio-economy and infrastructure.

"Chinese investors can use Thailand as a production base and re-export to Asean, as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam have high economic growth of 5-8.5% this year," he said.

Mr Kobsak said the Thai and Chinese governments have pledged to deepen trade and investment cooperation, building connectivity between the EEC and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, known as the GBA, as well as other regional economic cooperations to enhance investment.

The GBA is the Chinese government's scheme to link nine cities in the coastal province of Guangdong -- Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Dongguan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing -- with Hong Kong and Macao to establish a new business hub.

Mr Kobsak told Chinese investors the EEC will become a significant location for future investment, especially in high technology under which the Eastern Economic Corridor of Digital, one of the flagship developments under the EEC scheme, will be established on one square kilometre as home to smart industries.

The government has also implemented policies to support 200,000 small and medium-sized enterprises to upgrade their technology and use robotics.

Duangjai Asawachintachit, the BoI's secretary-general, said the board expects four giant companies from Guangdong province with sales revenue of 10-50 billion baht a year, whose executives met Mr Kobsak on Wednesday, to invest in Thailand. They are Hebei Lizhong Non-ferrous Metal Group, Xiamen Golden Egret Special Alloy Co (GESAC), Hamaton Automotive Technology Co and Guangdong JOFO Enterprises.

The BoI reported that China's investment amounted to 515 projects worth 236.76 billion baht during 2008-17. In 2017, Chinese applications to the BoI were for 87 projects worth 27.51 billion baht, representing 9.7% of total foreign investment.

In the first nine months this year, China's investment applications rose 60% from the same period last year to 85 projects, with an investment value of 22 billion baht, up 100% from 11 billion baht in the same period last year.

Lin Ji, the deputy secretary-general of Guangdong province, said investors in Guangdong have shown high interest in the EEC.

He said Guangdong province's investment in Thailand amounted to $570 million in the first nine months of this year, mainly in high technology and agriculture-related projects.

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