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Thailand still bullish on Chinese investments as new PM Srettha heads to Beijing for Belt and Road Initiative forum


Chinese investment in Thailand has picked up pace this year despite an economic slowdown in the Asian giant, a welcome boost for the country’s new prime minister who flew into Beijing this week to bolster ties with its largest trading partner.
A stuttering recovery in the world’s second-biggest economy has spooked financial markets in 2023 as investors fretted about the impact on global growth, although Thailand has managed to retain its attraction as a vital investment hub including for China’s growth-hungry firms.

Between January and August, Thailand received foreign investment applications worth 365.2 billion baht (US$10.1 billion) – 73 per cent higher than the same period last year – led by Chinese firms that committed 90.3 billion baht, up nearly three times year-on-year, according to the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI).

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Investment pledges from second-placed Singapore, totalling 76.4 billion baht, were also largely from companies originally from China, said BOI Secretary General Narit Therdsteerasukdi.

“And if you look at the month-by-month statistics, Chinese investments are still increasing,” he said. “So I see that in the next two or three years, Chinese investments will still increase drastically in Thailand.”

Net foreign direct investment to Thailand from China in the first six months of this year was up 56 per cent year-on-year to 25.1 billion baht, central bank data shows.

This wave of investments into Thailand comes at a time of growing concerns over an economic slowdown in China, and is a shot in the arm for Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who pledged to turn around Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy when he took over the reins in August.
A tour guide sign written in Chinese characters outside the Emerald Buddha Temple inside of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: EPA-EFE

Thailand’s central bank expects 2024 economic growth to pick up to 4.4 per cent, from a forecast 2.8 per cent this year.

Srettha told reporters before flying out on Monday that his three-day visit to Beijing, centred around a forum on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, would include discussion on electric vehicles.

The premier met with Xiaomi Corp’s executive Alain Lam on Tuesday, as the smartphone maker works on its goal of producing EVs by early next year.

“The company is looking for a production facility to further its growth in many areas including EV,” a Thai government spokesperson said.

Chinese EV manufacturers – including BYD and Great Wall Motor – have investment commitments of at least US$1.44 billion in new facilities in Thailand, turning the country into a regional hub for EV production.

We have good relationships with all countries. We are a conflict-free zone

Narit Therdsteerasukdi, Thailand Board of Investment Secretary General

Thailand is already Southeast Asia’s largest production centre for combustion engine vehicles, hosting major facilities of Japanese carmakers including Toyota Motor and Isuzu Motors.

But a large proportion of the 228 Chinese investments proposals this year have come in the electronics sector, according to the BOI.

“We have good relationships with all countries,” Narit said. “We are a conflict-free zone.”

04:03

Chinese buyers flock to Thailand’s property market in search of security following pandemic

Chinese buyers flock to Thailand’s property market in search of security following pandemic

WHA Group, Thailand’s largest industrial estate developer, said it is seeing no slowdown in business with Chinese companies, which will help it reach a second straight year of record land sales.

“They come every week,” CEO Jareeporn Jarukornsakul told Reuters. “There really are a lot of them.”

WHA is in talks with several major firms in the autos, technology and electronics sectors on large land sales, she said, after clinching a deal with China’s Changan Automobile, whose 8.86 billion baht EV project received BOI approval last week.

Chinese investments will likely continue for the next two years, Jareeporn said. “It’s a golden opportunity.”



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