Laos and Thailand are seeking bilateral cooperation at special and specific economic zones along the border of the two countries.
Laos’ National Committee for Special Economic Zones (NCSEZ) and Thailand’s Policy Committee on Special Economic Zone Development are preparing to sign a memorandum of understanding to inaugurate cooperation on SEZs, a senior official of the Laotian committee said yesterday.
"However, mechanisms and methods to implement bilateral cooperation haven’t been worked out yet, and after the MoU we will seek cooperation on each specific sector," said Bouatha Khattiya, deputy minister of labour and social welfare, vice president of the NCSEZ, and head of the NCSEZ Secretariat.
Thai Commerce Minister General Chatchai Sarikulya told a recent seminar that SEZs in border areas of the two countries would be instrumental in boosting not only trade over next three years but also investment.
Thailand plans to develop SEZs in 10 provinces, six of which have been designated in the first phase: Tak, Sa Kaew, Trat, Mukdahan, Songkhla and Nong Khai. The designated provinces in the second phase are Chiang Rai, Nakhon Phanom, Kanchanaburi and Narathiwat.
Chatchai was quoted as saying the Thai government had earmarked Bt80 billion to develop infrastructure to support first-phase development and Bt170 billion for the second phase.
Of the two phases of SEZ development, four zones will be located in border areas adjacent to Laos: Mukdahan, Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom and Chiang Rai.
Laos currently has two SEZs and nine specific economic zones, with nine of these located in areas bordering Thailand.
The two SEZs are Savan-Seno SEZ in Savannakhet province and Golden Triangle SEZ in Bokeo province. Specific economic zones include Boten Beautiful Land in Luang Namtha province, Pakse-Japan SME in Champasak province, Thakhek and the Phoukhiew SEZ in Khammuan province.
Other specific economic zones in Vientiane are That Luang Marsh, Vientiane Industry and Trade Area (VITA Park), Vientiane Long Thanh Golf Course, Xaysettha, and Dongphousy.
According to the NCSEZ, developers and investors in the SEZs are entitled to receive privileges including tax exemptions for importing equipment and raw materials for infrastructure construction, and reductions in income tax and value added tax, depending on business type.
In addition, they will receive the right to reside in Laos with family during the time of the investment, other promotional privileges that were indicated in laws and regulations, and a one-stop service at each zone.