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Thailand Aims for ASEAN to Engage More with Partners

1 May 2008 (Readers 707)
Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has stated that his government would take steps to ensure that ASEAN would engage more with its international partners. ASEAN would also need US participation to reach its goal of economic integration.

The Prime Minister made the statement at the Business Summit on Thai-US Partnership Success Stories, held at Government House in Bangkok on April 28. The summit was part of the 175th anniversary celebrations of Thai-US relations in 2008.

He said that, because Thailand becomes the Chair of ASEAN this year, the country has this double opportunity to deepen bilateral ties and reinforce American relations with ASEAN. He cited as good news the appointment of the first US ambassador to ASEAN in Jakarta by the US Congress.

In his remarks, Prime Minister Samak pointed out that Thailand and ASEAN are dynamic places with potential and stability. From now, the United States would not see just Thailand and its almost 70 million people, but would also see a hub linking the ASEAN region with enormous markets, like China and India. It would see more movement of goods, services, and people through Thailand.

He explained that Thailand had free trade agreements with Japan, China, India, Australia, and New Zealand. ASEAN has just signed one with Japan, and will have one with South Korea soon. The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), comprising Cambodia, southern China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, is planning to link transportation routes throughout the region, thus creating new business and tourism opportunities.

Larger than the GMS is ASEAN, which was founded here in Thailand. Prime Minister Samak said that the new ASEAN Charter would give ASEAN a legal identity and create a human rights body. This shows that ASEAN is serious about attaining higher standards. However, ASEAN would need international support for a practical solution to issues involving Myanmar. Trade and economic development is one powerful way to change things for the better. American businesses could contribute to ASEAN prosperity. A prosperous ASEAN is certainly a good complement to the US economy.

He said that Thailand had constantly looked at American trade and investment as a vital component in regional economic stability. The United States is ASEANs number one trading partner, Thailands largest export market, and often Thailands number one trading partner, as well. Thailand wants American friends to maintain a strong presence here and see Thailand as the springboard and channel to connect with the rest of Southeast Asia and beyond.

The Prime Minister hopes that ASEAN under Thailands chairmanship would re-invest itself in ways that make the United States and ASEAN move forward together. He called for the making use of the US-ASEAN cooperation. Thailand and the United States, in particular, have been friends for nearly two centuries and could achieve a lot more together in the years to come.

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