Thailand has agreed to expand trade and investment with Sweden and Belgium, and it has good potential to serve as the European Union's gateway to the ASEAN region.
The issue was raised for discussion during the official visit of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to Sweden, Belgium, and the European Union Headquarters from 4 to 7 March 2013.
Prime Minister Yingluck invited Sweden to invest in Thailand's infrastructure projects, saying that Thailand would spend 66 billion US dollars, or two trillion baht, on developing its logistics and transport system linking with other countries in Southeast Asia. She assured Sweden of Thailand’s economic and political stability.
Both Thailand and Sweden also agreed to increase cooperation in science and technology, innovation, and research, with emphasis on alternative energy and green industries. They discussed the possibility of expanding cooperation in medical tourism, as well. About 350,000 Swedish tourists visit Thailand each year.
Today, Sweden ranks 33rd among Thailand’s trading partners and came seventh among the country’s trading partners in the European Union. Trade between the two countries reached 1.5 billion dollars in 2012, and is constantly on the rise.
In Belgium, Prime Minister Yingluck asked the Belgian government to consider Schengen visa waivers for Thai passport holders to promote people-to-people contact and facilitate trade and investment between the two countries. She also stated that Thailand was ready to support the operation of more flights between Bangkok and Brussels.
Both countries agreed to exchange knowledge and expertise in medical science, food safety, nanotechnology, innovation, high-level research and development, and logistics in order to enhance Thailand’s competitiveness. Prime Minister Yingluck stressed Thailand’s readiness to start negotiations on a Thailand-European Union Free Trade Agreement.
She said that Thailand was also ready to welcome Crown Prince Philippe of Belgium, who will lead a business delegation to visit Thailand between 17 and 22 March 2013 to strengthen Thai-Belgian relations. The delegation will consist of representatives from 150 companies. During the visit, both countries are expected to sign a Thai-Belgian Action Plan to promote bilateral cooperation. More than 90,000 Belgian tourists visit Thailand each year, and about 3,000 Thais are living in Belgium.
During the visit to the European Union Headquarters in Brussels, the Thai delegation held talks with the European Commission on Thailand-European Union free trade arrangements. Also in Brussels, Prime Minister Yingluck visited an exhibition on the registration of Thai jasmine rice “Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Ronghai” under the European Union's Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) scheme. The Thai rice variety is the first product in Southeast Asia to be registered under this scheme.