Thailand approves law for $45 billion Eastern Economic Corridor

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s parliament on Thursday approved legislation geared towards attracting more investment in an ambitious $45 billion project in the country’s industrial east, which the ruling junta hopes will help lift Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) bill is the latest in a series of measures the junta is rolling out to spur investment in the Thai economy, which the government projects to grow 4.2 percent in 2018.

The new law provides tax breaks for investors in the EEC project, a centerpiece of the junta’s policy to boost growth and target investment into hi-tech industries. It also enables investors to rent land for up to 99 years.

The government has also introduced relaxed visa measures for foreign professionals and also invoked executive powers to help speed investment approval.

The EEC project has already attracted attention at home.

The country's largest petrochemical company, PTT Global Chemical PTTGC.BK announced a $985 million olefins plant in the EEC in January.

Top industrial estate developer, Amata Corporation Pcl AMATA.BK increased its sales target last year in the EEC, anticipating more investors. Amata also partnered with Swedish Saab AB SAABb.ST to study the development of an aerospace city.

The EEC drew $9.3 billion of promised investment in 2017, according Thailand’s investment agency.

The industrial east is already home to foreign auto manufacturers such as Toyota 7203.T, Honda 7267.T and Ford F.N, that gave Thailand the moniker, "Detroit of the East", and also houses petrochemical and electronic companies.

Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Alison Williams