Austrians interested in EEC investment

Industry minister Uttama Savanayana at a roundtable meeting for opportunities in EEC with Austrian Economic Chambers in Vienna.

Thailand is attractive for Austrian and EU firms to invest in advanced and industrial technology in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

“Thailand has high potential in Asean because of its political stability, geographic position, strong intellectual property protections and 4.0 policy,” said Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana.

Speaking to the Bangkok Post after meeting with the Austrian Economic Chambers in Vienna recently, the minister said there is a lot of investment interest in Thailand, mostly from global and family-run businesses looking to expand to Asean.

Lending Group AG, a biochemical firm, increased its investment in Thailand by US$300 million (9.8 billion baht) at 304 Industrial Park in Prachin Buri.

Zumtobel, a family-owned business for industrial lighting equipment, is also interested in Thailand’s smart city project.

Luf, an Austrian small business that creates autonomous wheelchairs for the elderly and firefighting support products, is considering setting up an assembly line for speed boats here.

Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office, said his office will join hands with Thai embassies and chambers of commerce in prospective countries to attract private investment.

More than 30 firms expressed interest in EEC investment, particularly those in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Austria, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The industries range from bio-food to pharmaceuticals and energy.

Songsak Saicheua, Thai ambassador to Austria, said apart from travel, the industrial sector is the main contributor to Austrian GDP.

There are over 100 Austrian firms investing in Thailand, contributing US$540 million as of 2016. European countries have been working to expand their presence in Asean.

“Austria has strength in automotive parts in Graz, the capital of Styria state, and also in construction, food processing, robotics, high-tech automation, chemical and wine production,” said Mr Songsak.

With its strong industrial competitiveness, Austria has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU.

Mr Songsak said SMEs in Austria are quite unique as they are family-owned businesses, running in-house research and development and innovation.

In Austria, the universities work with Austria Economic Chambers to do research projects that fit to industries’ needs, by which the chamber also provides training and research funding, offered at the state and federal level, to universities.

Stefan Doboczky, chief executive of Lenzing, said the new expansion of its factory in Thailand will bring advanced fibre optic technology to the country.

“The project is the first instalment in Asia. With its geographic advantage and intellectual property rights protections, we have decided to expand additional project phases,” said Mr Doboczky.

Guenter Altenburger, director strategic sourcing of Grenier Bio-One International GmbH, based in Austria, said the company has a factory of blood collection tubes at Amata Industrial Park in Chon Buri, Thailand. Next year, the company will increase its capacity at the facility with additional investment of US$7 million.

Durga Rao, senior vice-president of Zumtobel, an industry lighting equipment provider based in Austria, said Thailand has enormous opportunity among Asean countries as the new ECC will cover smart cities and infrastructure development.

“Previously, we provided products through local partners, but now we are considering setting up a direct sales office there,” said Mr Rao.

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