China-Thailand relation is often described as “China and Thailand are as close as a family”. In recent years, the two countries have strengthened cooperation in all aspects and reaped mutually beneficial results. 2015 is the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-Thailand diplomatic relations. On such a commemorative occasion, how could China and Thailand further deepen their cooperation and reap win-win results? With regard to this, the China-ASEAN Panorama interviewed the Thai Ambassador to China H.E. Theerakun Niyom, who summarized the achievements made by the two countries and talked about possible cooperation fields and opportunities in the future.
Looking Back to the Past Achievements
China-ASEAN Panorama: This year is the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-Thailand diplomatic relations. During the past 40 years, China and Thailand have witnessed remarkable development in bilateral relations. How would Thailand view the current China-Thailand relations? What celebrations or commemorative activities would be held this year?
H.E. Theerakun Niyom: Thailand and China established diplomatic relations on 1st July 1975, but our connection dates back to the 13th century, during the Sukhothai Period and Ming Dynasty.
We have always enjoyed friendly and cordial relationship, based on good understanding of each other. From a historical stand point, Thailand and China are close neighbors as our two countries enjoyed geographical and cultural proximity, whose people have close familial ties.
In the modern period, Thailand-China relationship has been strengthened by frequent exchanges of high-level visits, both by government officials and especially by members of the Thai Royal family.
Thailand and China are comprehensive strategic partners; our cooperation extends to many fields, besides politics and economics, such as in science, technology, culture, health, education, sports, law and security. Such cooperation has contributed not only to the prosperity of the people of Thailand and China, but also to peace, stability and prosperity in ASEAN and East Asia region.
To celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations, various Thai agencies, both private and public, have launched and planned to organize several major and varied activities, including high-level visits, seminars on future directions of our relations, and cultural events with the aim of taking our relations to new heights.
Looking into the Future for Deepened Cooperation
China-ASEAN Panorama: Thailand is the second biggest trading partner of China
in ASEAN. In what fields do you think China and Thailand have cooperation prospects?
H.E. Theerakun Niyom: China is Thailand’s most important trading partner. In 2014, two-way trade was valued at USD 72.67 billion. China is also Thailand’s largest export-import market. Chinese investment in Thailand also continues to accelerate.
To further facilitate our economic cooperation, Thailand and China agreed to revive the Thailand-China Joint Committee (JC) on Economic Cooperation to underline bilateral trade and investment, with the first meeting held in Beijing in November 2014. In general, our bilateral trade and investment is strong and constructive. Yet, I firmly believe there is room for further expansion and partnership, especially at the provincial level.
Infrastructure development, with the Thailand-China railway agreement is the priority area, as well as agriculture, energy, and tourism.
Thailand has recently designated 5 border areas as special economic zones (Mae Sot, Aranyaprathet, Trat, Mukdahan and Sadao) open to investment, another potential area for cooperation.
China-ASEAN Panorama: 2014 is the “China-ASEAN Cultural Exchange Year”. What achievements had been made between China and Thailand? What moves would Thailand make to further promote the bilateral cultural cooperation?
H.E. Theerakun Niyom: ASEAN and China cultural exchanges invigorate our partnership and help to contribute to people connectivity.
Thailand places great emphasis on cultural/educational exchanges as a means to strengthen understanding and people-to-people connectivity, which forms the back-bone of our bilateral exchanges.
Thailand will continue to cooperate with China in promoting cultural/educational activities/exchanges to cement our bond of friendship.
Co-building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road with a Close Rapport
C h i n a - A S E A N P a n o r a m a : In October, 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the initiative of constructing the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road when he visited the ASEAN countries. As 2015 is designated as the “Year of China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation”, maritime cooperation has become an important content jointly promoted by China and ASEAN in the new era. What do you think China and Thailand should do to build the new Maritime Silk Road, carry out maritime cooperation, and develop maritime economy? What would be the opportunities and challenges for Chinese and Thai enterprises?
H.E. Theerakun Niyom: On 28 March 2015, H.E. General Tanasak Patimapragorn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, represented Thailand at the Boao Forum for Asia and delivered a speech during the opening ceremony of the forum, under the theme “Jointly Building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, where he outlined Thailand’s support for the above initiative as a means to strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries as well as expand cooperation in areas of mutual benefit, including infrastructure development, railway, telecommunication, and tourism.
Thailand’s strategic location as a gateway to ASEAN makes it a transport hub throughout the Southeast Asian region, especially in maritime transportation. As such, infrastructure related projects will contribute to the economic and transportation development of the country and region, which both countries enhance in the form of trilateral cooperation with Thailand’s neighboring countries, and have a significant impact on China's “One Belt, One Road” initiative.
Furthermore, the Silk Road Economic Belt will strengthen regional connectivity, which is one of Thailand’s most important foreign policy pillars, especially transport linkages, both land and sea, and technology transfers, which will create economic opportunities, pave way for joint-venture projects, and strengthen people-to-people relations, thus enhancing prosperity and security throughout the region.
At the same forum above, the Deput Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Af fai rs of Thailand co-chaired the launching ceremony of the “ASEANChina Maritime Cooperation Year” with Chinese State Councillor, Yang Jiechi, further highlighting China’s emphasis on strengthening cooperation with ASEAN.
CAEXPO as a Prominent Platform to Promote China- Thailand Economy and Trade
China-ASEAN Panorama: The CAEXPO is an effective carrier for trade and investment facilitation between China and ASEAN. It has become an optimal platform for China-ASEAN cooperation after years of development. What role do you think the CAEXPO has played in the bilateral high-level visits, trade cooperation, and cultural exchanges? What should the both sides’ enterprises do to further promote cooperation by making use of the CAEXPO?
H.E. Theerakun Niyom: The China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) has been an effective mechanism in promoting regional economic and trade cooperation and integration, and the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), while providing tremendous opportunities for the business communities from all over the world.
Thailand places great importance on CAEXPO and has sent high-level representatives to attend the meeting since its launch in 2004 and this year, with Thailand designated as the Country of Honor, the Prime Minister of Thailand together with a high-level delegation will participate in this important event.
As ASEAN moves toward a Community in 2015, China will continue to be an important partner in its regional integration. For example, as ASEAN’s largest trading partner, China aims to heavily increase its investment in Southeast Asia ahead of the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, with current two-way investment reaching over USD 100 billion and plans to increase it by USD 150 billion by the year 2020.
ASEAN–China cooperation has grown to cover various areas from agriculture to disaster relief, and the two sides have set up extensive mechanisms and a range of cooperative platforms, including CAEXPO, which will continue to play an important role in facilitating this partnership.
China-ASEAN Panorama: At the closing ceremony of the 11th CAEXPO, Thailand was designated as the Country of Honor of the 12th CAEXPO. How would Thailand exhibit itself and what activities would be held?
H.E. Theerakun Niyom: As mentioned, Thailand plans to send a high-level delegation to the 12th CAEXPO in Nanning. The Prime Minister of Thailand accepted the invitation of Mr. Peng Qinghua, CCP Secretary of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, to attend the CAEXPO during the latter’s visit to Thailand in April 2015.
Both sides are now working closely on the details of the activities. Certainly, major players in both the public and private sector are expected to attend. It will be a great opportunity for us to learn more of our potentials and to form a stronger partnership in various fields.
Co-building the AIIB to Promote the Integration
China-ASEAN Panorama: By April 15 of 2015, the founding members of the China-proposed AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) reached over 57. The Thailand is one of the first batch of founding members of AIIB. What influence has the AIIB exerted on the infrastructure construction of Thailand and how would Thailand hope to participate in the construction of the AIIB? In connectivity construction in particular, what should the two sides do to enhance construction in high-speed railway?
H.E. Theerakun Niyom: Thailand congratulates and commends China for its strong determination in initiating and establishing the AIIB, which is expected to bring many advantages to the region.
As the first multilateral development bank whose largest shareholders are countries in Asia, Thailand, together with all ASEAN members are giving full cooperation to its establishment and stands ready to work actively in partnership with the AIIB to further facilitate trade links and economic activity as well as advance regional integration.
Thailand believes that viable infrastructure development is the key to enhance regional connectivity and economic development and thus the AIIB can play an important role in this endeavor.
As one of the founding members, Thailand believes that the AIIB should incorporate high standards as well, complement the existing architecture, and work effectively alongside the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, by for example tapping into the expertise of experienced development banks.
Source from CHINA-ASEAN PANORAMA
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