BANGKOK -- Hong Kong's leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, led 50 investors from Hong Kong on Friday to tour Thailand's Eastern Economic Corridor, its well-promoted investment area, during her official visit to Bangkok. She said she expects more investors to relocate their investment and production bases to Thailand at a time when protests and trade wars have intensified.
"This is a good opportunity for us to illustrate our policies and privileges to promote investment," said Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries. He added that Hong Kong and mainland Chinese investors started moving their production to Thailand in earnest last year.
In 2018, 168 projects worth 68.9 billion baht ($2.3 billion) were submitted to Thailand's Board of Investment for new investment applications from China and Hong Kong, reaching their highest point in 10 years, as escalating protests in Hong Kong and an ongoing trade war between China and the U.S. spurred relocation of production facilities.
The move from Hong Kong and China has continued its rise this year. In the first half of 2019, new investment project applications totaled 113, worth 31.9 billion baht.
"We saw a lot of Hong Kong and Chinese investors moving into Thailand last year and we expect more to come as the situation in Hong Kong and the trade war intensify," said Supant.
Lam also signed six memorandums of understanding with Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak to facilitate trade and investment.
Weerasak Wangsupakitkosol, the deputy commerce minister, chaired the business matching sessions during the Hong Kong investors' visit of Hong Kong Friday. He said Thailand planned to set up a trade negotiation body with Hong Kong soon to pave the way for free trade agreement that help boost trade in the future.
He said the FTA is a win-win cooperative initiative that will lead to more investment in Thailand, as Hong Kong will be able to use Thailand as a gateway to penetrate countries in the CLMV region -- Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Thailand could also use Hong Kong as a link to the Greater Bay Area -- Hong Kong, Macao and mainland China's Guangdong Province -- to enter the Chinese market.
"We aim to boost trade value between Thailand and Hong Kong, to reach $20 billion within next year," said Weerasak.
Hong Kong ranks as Thailand's ninth biggest trade partner with total trade value worth $15.5 billion in 2018, up 1.8% from the previous year.