Thailand approves almost $1 bln of foreign investment amid U.S.-China tensions

BANGKOK, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Thailand has approved four investment projects from Japan, Taiwan and Singapore worth almost $1 billion as it strives to court investors keen to avoid the fallout of a trade war between the United States and China.

The projects total 28.3 billion baht ($927 million), the Board of Investment (BOI) government agency said on Friday, with the biggest being a 18.5-billion-baht joint venture between Thai, Japanese and Taiwanese companies to produce thermoplastic for cars and electronics.

The three smaller projects include one involving Japan’s Ajinomoto Co Inc. unit in Thailand, the BOI added.

Earlier this month, the government announced a relocation package to attract foreign companies looking to move production due to the intensifying U.S.-China tensions, seeking to compete with Vietnam to lure manufacturers hit by tariffs.

The scheme offers a 50% corporate income tax reduction for another five years for those who apply by 2020 and requires that at least 1 billion baht of real investment is deployed by 2021.

Thailand, Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, aims to approve investments projects worth 750 billion baht for 2019. It approved 709 billion baht worth of investments last year.

“Many companies that were impacted by the trade war are looking for new locations,” BOI Secretary-General, Duangjai Asawachintachit, told Reuters in an interview adding they were getting more interest from China, Taiwan and South Korea.

This presents an opportunity for Thailand, she said.

The BOI has also introduced other incentives in a an attempt to boost workforce skills labour with companies that run training programs or setting up corporate academies receive varying levels of tax exemptions, Duangjai added.

These incentives target 10 industries including, aviation, medical services and robotics.

$1 = 30.4900 baht Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Pravin Char