Thailand woos Aussie investors on its innovation potential

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Thai delegates have promised Australian investors a “totally different” Thailand within three years as the government looks to attract foreign capital to its reshaping economy, which is being built around a massive innovation push.

At a presentation in Sydney on Tuesday that concluded a three-week trade mission, representatives from Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) pitched investors on tax incentives and a way around otherwise strict foreign land ownership laws in the country.

The incentives offered by Thailand get more generous and last longer if the Australian investor is willing to set up or back projects in a certain economic development zone, known as the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). The EEC is being developed as the centre of the government’s Thailand 4.0 scheme, a 20-year strategy to transform the country’s economy.

Companies and investors that conduct R&D will get several more years of incentives on top of this, meaning foreign investors are being offered more than a decade of government support to back innovative projects in the EEC.

artificial intelligence roads
Thailand is pouring billions into infrastructure to reshape its economy over two decades, and wants Australian investors to join.

Thai delegates said nearly US$50 billion had already been invested into the EEC zone, which covers three of the country’s eastern provinces. But more is needed to fulfil its potential as the “logistics hub” of ASEAN, they said.

Led by a dedicated government agency, the EEC was established in 2018 to promote economic integration across the country’s eastern seaboard.

By 2026 the EEC will have an international airport, a deep water port, high speed rail and massive industrial estates, all operational by 2026. The area already has around 50 per cent 5G connectivity, according to the BOI.

EEC has been carved up into seven zones for specific industries, including a ‘Digital Park’ for developing things like IoT and software, a Medical Hub for care and services designed around Thailand’s aging population, and an EECi Innovation Platform – a dedicated 480 hectare space for research translation and commercialisation.

“I think this is an exciting moment for Thailand,” a senior Thai investment officer from the BOI told Australian investors.

“In three years’ time, when everything is done, Thailand will be transformed into a totally different country. I think it’s not an exaggeration to say the EEC is the place to be if you’re looking to invest in Thailand.”

The country’s export value and GDP growth have rebounded after a pandemic slowdown, which officials said allowed the country to “catch up” on the massive infrastructure projects in the EEC.

This had created fertile ground for new industries as Thailand transitions away from traditional automotive manufacturing and rubber and plastic products to a more circular, decarbonised and innovative economy at the heart of ASEAN, the officials told investors.

The Thai delegation, which was supported b y Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, pitched the private investors on several incentives to bring more money into the country.

By working with the BOI, foreign investors are offered exemptions and reductions on corporate tax and import duties. The government agency also offers a way for foreign investors to gain complete ownership of land and associated rights in Thailand, something that is otherwise prohibited for foreigners.

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