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Thailand investment applications nearly triple in 2016

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Thailand's investment applications nearly tripled in 2016 to US$16.6 billion, mainly in the automobile, chemicals and electronics industries, and are expected to rise by 3 per cent this year, the investment agency said on Wednesday.

[BANGKOK]Thailand's investment applications nearly tripled in 2016 to US$16.6 billion, mainly in the automobile, chemicals and electronics industries, and are expected to rise by 3 per cent this year, the investment agency said on Wednesday.

Thai and foreign firms submitted more than 1,500 investment projects worth a combined 584.4 billion baht (S$23.5 billion) last year - slightly higher than the government's target and up 196 per cent from 2015, Hirunya Suchinai, secretary-general of the Board of Investment, told reporters. "Investment pledges in 2016 beat our target, reflecting investor confidence in Thailand," she said.

The big rise, however, also reflects a low comparative base in 2015, when the military government introduced new policies that led to a 90 per cent slump in submissions that year as firms rushed to submit their proposal before the change.

The junta hopes the new policies targeting industrial clusters and value-added sectors will draw foreign investors back to Thailand, which has been under military rule since a coup in May 2014 ended months of street protests.

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Japan remained Thailand's biggest investor in 2016, followed by Singapore and China.

For 2017, the agency still expected overall investment applications at 600 billion baht, Hirunya said.

A more protectionist United States under President Donald Trump should not have an impact on US investment in Thailand as US firms' products are mainly for markets in the region, not the US market, Hirunya said. "US investment is not much here but it does not mean that it will fall as we don't think the new US policies will affect their investment in Thailand," she said.

Faced with weak exports and sluggish domestic demand, the government has focused on promoting investment to help revive growth in Southeast Asia's second-largest economy, which lags regional peers.

The central bank has forecast economic growth of 3.2 per cent for this year and in 2016.

REUTERS

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