Thailand to integrate the Eastern Economic Corridor with China’s One Belt One Road Initiative

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The Thai government intends to connect the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) to China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR). How will the move benefit the two countries?

Editorial

Since 2017, the Thai government has explored plans to connect the EEC to OBOR Initiative. The Chinese OBOR strategy aims to create trade connections between Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. The EEC is the Thai government’s development plan. It will bring about tremendous opportunities for Thailand in the next decade.

The two strategies will be synergetic by nature

The US$44 billion EEC is expected to turn Thailand’s Eastern provinces into a trade and industry hub. The government hopes the EEC will create 100,000 jobs a year by 2020. The majority jobs will be in the manufacturing and service industry. Investors will also receive favourable conditions under the EEC.

The US$125 billion OBOR is a mega infrastructure project. It involves 70 countries and international organisations. It will strengthen bilateral trading ties between China and Thailand. It will also help boost cultural exchanges.

Connectivity is essential for both plans. Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-chadeliver his national address on 12 May 2017. He said that Thailand needs to develop infrastructure with China to facilitate connectivity. A high-speed China-Thailand railway under OBOR is under construction. It will be the first high-speed railway in Thailand. The railway will connect Thailand to Laos and Kunming in China. Submarine cables will connect Bangkok with Hong Kong and mainland China. This extensive connectivity will boost tourism and attract investment.

The Thai government expects innovative growth and investment

The Thai government hopes that by integrating the EEC into OBOR it will receive more technologic support from China. China possesses more advanced technology and extensive experience in managing large infrastructure projects. The Thai government is hoping to tap into this experience.

Meanwhile, Thailand is promoting a new economic model Thailand 4.0. Technology-driven is the core. Innovation is the first priority drive for economic growth. The OBOR will help boost innovation for Thailand.

The Thai government also expects the OBOR connection to increase investment. The government expects to receive US$43 billion for the EEC over the next five years.

Chinese companies are already investing in the EEC. More than 80 Chinese companies have set up manufacturing facilities, research centres, and operational hubs at the Thai-Chinese Industrial Zone at Rayong. Investment in the EEC from China reached US$30 billion by the end of 2016. With the connection of the two schemes announced, this figure will increase for 2018.

Tourism is one of the key industries in EEC

Tourism is pillar industry for Thailand’s economy. It is also one of the ten key industries in the EEC plans. Thailand relies on tourism and export for economic growth. In 2016, the tourism sector accounted for 20.6% of Thailand’s gross domestic product (GDP). The number is increasing annually.  Most of the tourist arrivals to Thailand were from China.

70% of the Chinese tourists have been to the EEC district. The OBOR infrastructure development plans will help boost Thailaind’s tourism industry.

Source: World Atlas

Both Thailand and China will benefit from the connection

Since 2013, 50 Chinese state-owned companies have invested in 1,700 OBOR projects. Meanwhile, the EEC is Thailand’s biggest national infrastructure project. Through OBOR, China will be the main investor in the EEC. Benefits will also materialise for China as the most prominent investor. It will get privileged investor access to the region.

“It’s very natural, logical, and mutually beneficial for the EEC to link up with One Belt, One Road (OBOR), and other regional initiatives like the RCEP or even TPP if that goes ahead,” said Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana.

Through the EEC-OBOR link, China can use Thailand as an entry point for OBOR in the region. Simultaneously, Thailand can use OBOR to drive investment in the EEC. The connection will be win-win for both China and Thailand.