Thais hit the road to draw Japanese firms

Intense competition with Asean members

The government has kicked off an ambitious roadshow in Japan in a bid to attract more Japanese investors to Thailand after the dawn of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) later this year.

Industry Minister Chakramon Phasukvanich yesterday said the roadshow was aimed at pursuing investment that focused on creating competitive advantage and adding value to products and services.

Chakramon: AEC luring Japanese SMEs

"Japanese investors are interested in expanding their investment here in Thailand, mostly in the form of Japanese small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that want to capitalise on the bigger Asean market after the AEC," Mr Chakramon said.

The Japanese government also plans to provide support for up to 1,000 SMEs to invest in Thailand.

Thai officials expect at least 500 new Japanese SMEs will begin investing in Thailand after the roadshow.

"Currently they're interested in sectors such as medical equipment, halal food, agriculture and aeroplane parts," Mr Chakramon said.

For their part, Japanese investors want the Thai government to show more flexibility on foreign investment rules by allowing Japanese SMEs to retain some tax privileges — for instance, on importing used machinery to produce goods in Thailand.

That would require Thailand to amend its Board of Investment (BoI) regulations, which state that only firms bringing in new machinery to make goods in Thailand are granted tax privileges.

"The government needs to discuss the issue with the BoI before making any decision," Mr Chakramon said.

Acting BoI secretary-general Hirunya Suchinai said the Thai government would do business matching between the two sides in order to create high-value investment.

"Japanese investors said they were interested in creating a high-value sector industry, which received full support from the Japanese government," she said.

The Thai government also plans to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Japan's Keidanren business group in April to foster increased investment.

Before this latest MoU, the government signed others with Japanese business groups in various prefectures such as Saitama, Yamanashi, Totori, Akita, Shimane, Kawasaki and Ichi.

According to a recent survey by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok, Japanese investment in Thailand is tipped to grow in the first half of 2015, reflecting improved business sentiment among Japanese firms.

At the same time, competition among Asean members to attract more Japanese investment is heating up.

The survey found Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam were more attractive for Japanese investors, especially in view of the coming AEC.

Japan is also seeking more Thai investment through a deal signed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during his visit earlier this month.

The memorandum of cooperation is expected to pave the way for more Thai companies to invest in Japan, the Japan External Trade Organization said.

Related search: Trade, investment, SMEs

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Writer: Lamonphet Apisitniran