New Zealand companies have the opportunity to expand into Thailand with the development of its Eastern Economic Corridor, an industry leader says.
ASEAN New Zealand Business Council vice chair Lester Khoo said in 15 years' time it would be significantly easier to do business in Thailand.
"Thailand has a lot of advantages, it's geographically well-located and has very good logistics, roading, transportation, and so it's in a very good sweet spot," Khoo said. "There's already quite a few big players in Thailand, the key thing now is how do we get some of our other organisations there, who may not be as aware of the opportunities, to invest there."
New Zealand companies Fisher & Paykel Appliances, Fonterra, Elastomer and Enviroplaz are already operating there.
Thailand is hoping to lead the ASEAN economy with the development of its Eastern Economic Corridor - in just 15 years.
The Southeast Asian country has committed to a 20-year plan, set in legislation, which will enable it to invest in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) development, and is calling for foreign investors to participate.
Speaking at Thailand Board of Investment's "Thailand Taking Off to New Heights" seminar held in Bangkok, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the country was positioning itself to become a global business hub, known for its expertise in the aviation, bio-chemical, manufacturing and production industries.
The EEC, which Thailand touts as the gateway to Asia, comprises plans to link transport and logistics systems to roads, rail, sea routes and air transport across a 13,000sq km radius of three provinces in eastern Thailand.
Jatusripitak said it would be "significantly" transformed in the next four years.
"We believe opportunities are coming for Thailand and now is the opportunity for Thailand to shift to new heights - to shift to the centre regional hub in terms of economy, tourism and investment," he said.
"There has been a global shift from European markets to oriental markets.
"ASEAN has become the centre of the global economy. With Thailand's situation and the economy right now, it can be reassured that Thailand will soar and be the centre of the ASEAN economy."
Thailand went through an economic crisis in the 1970s and has since been going through a reform. Its gross domestic product (GDP) grew by almost 4 per cent annually in the past two years, and is sitting at a growth rate of around 3.7 per cent in 2018, according to the World Bank.
Thailand is the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia, with exports accounting for towards two-thirds of its GDP, which is about US$400 billion ($553b) - double the size of New Zealand's.
Thai Ministry of Industry spokesman Uttama Savanayana said the country's 20-year strategy would propel Thailand to be the engine of Southeast Asia's growth.
He said he believed Thailand would be the heart of global business within 15 years.
Bangkok-based EEC deputy secretary general Luxmon Attapich said the Thai government wanted to work with New Zealand companies on its development.
"New Zealand is one of the countries we've opened our talks with," Attapich said.
"We have 10 targeted industries that we would like to promote. For example, electric vehicles, robots, artificial intelligence – digital is an area where New Zealand is advanced."
She could not say what technology it hoped to learn from New Zealand.
Khoo said Thailand perceived New Zealand as a tech-rich country.
"We have very good expertise in the tech area, whether its financial technology, ICT healthcare, specialised manufacturing, renewable energy technologies; solar, bio-fuel, and I think what Thailand is looking for is technology transfer."
Thailand is a top 50 global economy and ranked in 26th place on the World Economic Forum's global ease of doing business list. New Zealand sits in 1st place.