Minister says U.S. firms interested in Thai megaprojects

Several United States-based companies expressed in possibly investing or participating in projects that are part of Thailand’s massive infrastructure upgrade, while others signaled they are planning to expand their presence in the Kingdom, the Minister of Commerce said last week after meeting with U.S. executives from the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.

“U.S. businesses said they are interested in several projects such as aviation and high-speed trains and also other major infrastructure projects that the Thai government is about to kick off,” Minister of Commerce Apiradi Tantraporn said after meeting members of the Council.

Other firms, such as Proctor & Gamble and agro-industrial conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), are planning to increase their investment in the Kingdom, the minister said. ADM told the minister it would like to expand its oil seeds and grain trading operations in Thailand because of the country’s strength as a trading and logistics center in the region.

U.S.-ASEAN Business Council president Alexander Feldman said the meeting with the minister was part of the council’s annual visit to get an update on business issues and strengthen relationships between U.S. and Thai businesses. U.S. businesses regard the country as the center of ASEAN, adding that U.S small and medium-sized enterprises are also interested in investing in Thailand, he said.

U.S. firms have yet to play a major role in Thailand’s infrastructure upgrade, but that may change. Thailand is in the process of launching roughly $100 billion worth of infrastructure projects to increase the country’s competitiveness. The Kingdom has long had some of the best and most extensive infrastructure in the region and that proved to be a major advantage in attracting investment and growing the economy in past decades. In recent years, however, others in the region have been making advances in building infrastructure and so Thailand is working to stay several steps ahead of the pack.

Cutting-edge infrastructure will also support Thailand 4.0, the 20-year national strategy to create an economy more reliant on higher-technology, innovation, research and development, creativity and green industries.

The showcase for Thailand 4.0 is the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), a three-province development zone east of Bangkok that will be home to 10 targeted industries including aviation and biotechnology. Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC, said last week that 10 major companies had already committed to investing in the zone, including foreign firms such as Airbus, Lazada, Toyota, and Honda.

In 2016, the U.S. was the third largest foreign direct investor in Thailand following Japan and the Netherlands, according to the Board of Investment, accounting for 7 percent of total foreign investment.