Foreign investors keen on EEC and automation

Foreign investors in Thailand are still bullish on the Eastern Economic Corridor and particularly in projects involving automation, but hope the Kingdom will negotiate more free trade agreements and sustain its fight against corruption.

“The government should speed up major developments such as the EEC (Eastern Economic Corridor) and the high-speed train network linking the three key airports as fast as possible,” said Stanley Kang, chairman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce of Thailand, last week.

The EEC is a three-province advanced development zone just east of Bangkok that is home to cutting-edge industries and serves as a showcase for Thailand 4.0, the 20-year national strategy to create a more high-tech, green, and innovative economy and society. Companies opening up in the EEC are doing so generally under long-term commitments.

“Foreign investors are not looking at Thailand for the short term alone. The acceleration of planned megaprojects and participation in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership [CPTPP] as soon as possible will increase the country’s competitiveness,’’ Kang said.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak favors Thailand joining the CPTPP and has instructed officials to begin taking steps for the Kingdom to become a member. The agreement would link Thailand in a free-trade grouping that covers 11 other nations around the Pacific Rim.

While voicing concerns over the rising value of the baht, Thailand’s currency, Tsuyoshi Inoue, executive managing director of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce said a survey of more than 200 Japanese companies in Thailand showed Japanese investors believe the Thai economy still has promising growth prospects for the next five years.

He expects Japanese companies will make new investments in the Kingdom during that period. He also urged Thailand to negotiate more free trade agreements (FTAs).

“FTAs will show Thailand’s stance on open markets and attract foreign investments,” Tsuyoshi said.

Japanese firms accounted for 32 percent of all applications for investment privileges from the Board of Investment last year. In all, they submitted 334 projects in hybrid electric vehicles, environment-friendly chemical products, electrical appliances, air-conditioner manufacturing, metal, and auto parts, among others.

Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Thailand Chamber of Commerce, said investors have been closely watching the impact of the ongoing China-U.S. trade spat, global economic slowdown, and strong baht, but are still positive on investing in Thailand.