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Apiradi: Russia keen on EEC investment

US$10bn in trade is targeted by 2020

The Industry Ministry presents EEC projects for Japanese investors at U-tapao airport in Rayong province. Russia is also interested in investment there. PORNPROM SATRABHAYA

Russia has expressed its interest to invest in Thailand's flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) as well as suggested that Thailand could benefit from a closer cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said the Russian Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Alexey Gruzdev, talked about Russian firms looking for opportunities to expand their business or start investing in Thailand, when they met at the Asean Economic Ministers meeting (AEM) last week in the Philippines.

"We had a chance to have a bilateral talk and Mr Gruzdev mentioned that Russian companies want to invest in the EEC," said Ms Apiradi.

Russia is keen for trade value between the two countries to exceed US$10 billion (330 billion baht) by 2020, well above the current value of $2 billion a year.

The EEC is the government's flagship policy to create new special economic zone spanning 30,000 rai in the three eastern provinces of Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao.

The government aims to attract both foreign and Thai investors to invest in 10 targeted industries: next-generation cars; smart electronics; affluent, medical and wellness tourism; agriculture and biotechnology; food; robotics for industry; logistics and aviation; biofuels and biochemical; digital; and medical services.

Ms Apiradi said Mr Gruzdev also pushed forward several projects that could lead to concrete economic cooperation in the near future, including an official visit of a high-ranking Russian official to Thailand soon.

She said he also mentioned that closer cooperation with the EEU would help create more trade and investment not only between Thailand and Russia, but also between Thailand and other EEU members.

The EEU is an economic union of states located primarily in northern Eurasia. The treaty for the establishment of the EEU was signed on May 29, 2014 by the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, and came into force on Jan 1 2015. Armenia and Kyrgyzstan have since joined the bloc.

During the talk with Mr Gruzdev, Ms Apiradi said the two sides agreed that they could one day create a free-trade agreement.

She said there is already a move toward cooperation, citing Thai firms' participation in the Eastern Economic Forum held by Russia in Vladivostok this month and the 16 Russian firms taking part in the Thai Medical Fair this week.

"We can expect greater cooperation soon, particularly regarding Russian investment in the EEC," said Ms Apiradi.

Russia ranks as Thailand's 32nd trade partner with total trade value of $1.96 billion in 2016, with Thai exports to Russia worth $577 million and imports around $1.4 billion.

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