Thailand and S. Korea aim to double bilateral trade

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Thailand and South Korea committed yesterday to a plan to double bilateral trade to US$30 billion a year within five years.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and visiting South Korean President Lee Myung-bak held talks and signed a memorandum of understanding to boost cooperation in four spheres - political, economic, socio-cultural, science and technology - and push the value of bilateral trade to $30 billion within 2016. Last year, trade between the two countries was worth $13.9 billion.

Expressing confidence that the goal could be achieved, Lee and Yingluck agreed that the recent opening of several South Korean bank branches in Thailand would facilitate trade and investment.

The two leaders also expressed their commitment to promote regional cooperation under the Asean+3 framework, the East Asia Summit and the Asean Regional Forum (ARF). Yingluck said they agreed to speed up ratification of a 2013-2017 trade and economic development plan, adding that action plans would be formulated to minimise trade obstacles. Bilateral trade negotiations under a joint commerce committee will also be revived. The two sides also agreed to jointly host a disaster drill under the ARF framework next year.

Yingluck proposed an integrated economic partnership agreement to cope with increasing trade and investment in the future. Thai and Korean trade ministers will work together on this issue.

South Korea was also interested in importing more Thai farm products such as rice, fruit and frozen poultry.

As the number of Korean tourists in Thailand last year reached a new record of 1.3 million, Yingluck proposed bilateral talks on aviation services to accommodate travellers and trade. The two leaders also agreed to take steps to protect tourists from each other's countries.

South Korea expressed interest in investing in the Thai-proposed high-speed rail project linking Chiang Mai to Bangkok, as well as water-management and electricity-generating projects, and the Dawei deep-sea port on Myanmar's eastern coast.

Thailand and Korea celebrate the 55th anniversary of diplomatic ties next year. The two leaders agreed to promote cultural cooperation through the establishment of cultural centres in Seoul and Bangkok to mark the anniversary.

As for regional security cooperation, Yingluck said she affirmed Thailand's support for South Korea's attempts to achieve peace and stability and eradicate nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula. Lee expressed his thanks for the Kingdom's support. Before the meeting, a guard of honour and ceremony was held at Government House to welcome the South Korean president on his three-day visit to Thailand.

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