U.N. agency will help develop Eastern Economic Corridor

The United Nations is joining forces with Thailand to develop the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) advanced development zone with the U.N. Industrial Development Organization signing a joint declaration last week with the Thai Eastern Economic Corridor Office to lend assistance in upgrading and improving industries in the area.

The U.N. Industrial Development Organization, or UNIDO, promotes sustainable industry in countries undergoing an economic transition. Thailand is undertaking just such a transition with its 20-year national strategy known as Thailand 4.0. The goal of the strategy is to evolve the Thai economy from reliance on assembly line manufacturing for multinationals to one driven by home-grown innovation, creativity, research and development, high technologies and green technologies.

The Eastern Economic Corridor is a three-province showcase area for implementation of Thailand 4.0. Located just east of the capital Bangkok, it is already home to many traditional manufacturing businesses and industrial estates.

Li Yong, director-general of UNIDO, said his agency will promote the EEC in terms of new technology and development so that industries in the corridor will meet global standards, making it a more appealing investment destination for foreign investors.

As part of the joint declaration, UNIDO will establish an Investment and Technology Promotion Office (ITPO) in Thailand. UNIDO has already opened ITPOs in other regions and parts of East Asia.

“The ITPO is expected to be located in the EEC area. It will be the first such center in ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) after offices in China, South Korea and Japan,” said Uttama Savanayana, Thailand’s Minister of Industry.

He added that UNIDO intends to create a program that will support funding for Thailand to engage in more research and development and adopt higher technologies so the country will be more competitive.

The ITPO will direct its efforts towards the 10 industries the government is targeting for support and development under Thailand 4.0. Those industries are automotive and parts (including electric vehicles); smart electronics; wellness and medical tourism; biotechnology and agriculture; food; robotics; logistics, aviation and aerospace; biofuels and biochemicals; digital industries and medical services.

The ITPO will help industries gain more efficiency and add value, Uttama said. It will focus first on robotics and automation, along with electric vehicles and parts.

The Board of Investment said last month that investment in the 10-targeted industries during the first seven months of this year totaled $2.7 billion, with the funds directed to 280 projects.