-An Exclusive Interview with the Minister of Ministry of Commerce of Thailand H.E. Gen. Chatchai Sarikalya
“Jeen Thai Phee Nong Gan”(China and Thailand are brothers.) is the true reflection of the profound friendship between China and Thailand. Over the centuries, the relations between the two sides have been enjoying a sound momentum of growth and even becoming better than before. In particular, since the official establishment of the diplomatic relations 40 years ago, exchanges of high-level visits, economic and trade cooperation and cross-cultural communication between Thailand and China have been constantly presenting various brilliant performances. As for China-Thailand cooperation, 2015 is doomed to be an extraordinary year: on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of establishing the diplomatic relations between China and Thailand, Thailand is the Country of Honor of China-ASEAN Exposition (CAEXPO) this year; the ASEAN Economic Community will be built; the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road has been pushed forward steadily; the cooperative project of China-Thailand high-speed railway has been carried out, etc. All these achievements will make the traditional ties of “Jeen Thai Phee Nong Gan” even closer and better.
On July 14, 2015, the minister of Ministry of Commerce of Thailand H.E. Gen. Chatchai Sarikalya gave an interview to the 12th CAEXPO media delegation which is a group aimed at paying visits to very important persons, and he answered some questions regarding the hotspot issues about China-Thailand cooperation from the journalists from China-ASEAN Panorama.
“There are no other two countries maintaining such a long and intimate amity like Thailand and China”
China-ASEAN Panorama: Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Thailand 40 years ago, our two countries have made rapid progress in bilateral trade. Considering the current economic conditions in Thailand, to maintain the sustainable and favorable development of China-Thailand relations, what cooperation do you think our two countries will continue to strengthen to sustain the sound development of China-Thailand relations?
H.E. Gen. Chatchai Sarikalya: Although 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Thailand and China, the friendly exchanges between our two nations actually date back to hundreds or even thousands of years from now. Thailand and China are friendly neighboring countries, which has been endorsed by the leaders of Thailand and China. Tracing to its source, over 1/3 of Thai people’s ancestors are Chinese, so it can be seen that the relations between Thailand and China have a long standing history. I believe that there are no other two countries maintaining such a long and intimate amity like Thailand and China. "Jeen Thai Phee Nong Gan”, that is China and Thailand are brothers. 40 years on, Thailand and China have made remarkable achievements in the areas of cooperation, such as trade, investment and culture.
Trade and investment play an important and fundamental role in the Thailand-China relations. In terms of trade, Thailand-China trade grows rapidly. Over the past 40 years, the trade volume between the two sides has increased from US $25 million dollars in 1975 to US $72.6 billion in 2014, increasing by 2, 800 times. Meanwhile, our two countries have also decided to reach the goal of making the bilateral trade volume increase to US $100 billion by the end of 2015. In the aspect of investment, the annual Thailand-China investment volume amounts to over US $1 billion dollars.
Thailand is a country which attaches importance to both agriculture and industry, and known as the granary of the ASEAN region. As always, China has been strongly giving supports to the export of agricultural products from Thailand to China, such as rice, rubber and cassava. Thai rice is of superior quality, and it can be called the best one. As for other agricultural products of Thailand, the two sides are also actively advancing their exports. Up to now, Thailand and China have held three meetings in connection with the import and export of agricultural products, and the 4th meeting was held on August 4, 2015 in Nanning, China. On the occasion, the Ministry of Commerce of Thailand had a discussion with the relevant departments of China about how to better export the well-known agricultural products of Thailand, such as rice and fruits, to China and about other related issues.
The strategic cooperation between our two countries has achieved in-depth development. In addition to constantly seeking the further development, the two sides have also realized good cooperation in other fields: in the field of education and cultural exchanges, Thai people show more and more interest in learning Chinese, and the number of foreign exchange students who are from the colleges and universities in our two countries has increased annually; in the area of tourism, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Thailand increases continually, taking up the largest share of the inbound tourist market. In 2015, the Chinese tourists to visit Thailand are expected to exceed 6 million.
A platform provided by CAEXPO for China-Thailand cooperation
China-ASEAN Panorama: CAEXPO serves as an important platform for expanding the economic and trade cooperation between China and ASEAN countries. In your opinion, after participating in all previous sessions, what positive changes or benefits have been brought to the development of Thailand’s businesses and enterprises?
H.E. Gen. Chatchai Sarikalya: For a long time, Thailand has been greatly welcoming and supporting the holding of CAEXPO. Thailand thinks highly of the organizer’s vision and thanks for the positive influence produced by the annual CAEXPO on the Thailand's enterprises. China is striving to build Guangxi, the permanent host place of CAEXPO, into an effective connecting portal of building the Belt and Road initiative, which will dramatically promote the trade cooperation between Thailand and China.
CAEXPO serves as an important platform of linking China with ASEAN countries. CAEXPO can effectively create good opportunities for helping ASEAN countries enter the Chinese market and making all the countries in the region and China become the permanent trade partners. CAEXPO
has made the relations between the two countries closer, helped the enterprises of all countries in the region exchange their information and ideas, exploit the markets and broaden the investment channels, and made the cultural exchanges among the countries more extensive and thorough.
Thailand is the Country of Honor of the 12th CAEXPO in 2015, and Chon Buri has been named as the City of Charm of CAEXPO this year. The theme of 2015 CAEXPO is “maritime cooperation”. In the context, Laem Charbang Port in Chon Buri (Thailand) and Guangxi Beibu Gulf Port (China) have their favorable advantages respectively and the basis for cooperation.
CAEXPO has been held for 11 consecutive years, making the relations between China and ASEAN closer. In particular, ASEAN is entering the age of AEC, which will make the regional cooperation expanded into wider areas. Both the governments and nongovernment institutions such as Thai Chamber of Commerce and China- ASEAN Chamber of Commerce have exerted tremendous effects on the promotion of the close and extensive cooperation between Thailand and China and between ASEAN and China, continually enlarging the scale of bilateral trade and investment as well as economy, which has been reflected in the Thailand-China cooperation in recent years. I believe that the 12th CAEXPO, to be held in September, 2015, will present more brilliant performances.
Thailand's active participation in building the Maritime Silk Road
China-ASEAN Panorama: In recent years, China-ASEAN maritime cooperation has become the highlight of both sides. China has made the proposal of “building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road through the joint efforts of China and ASEAN”, so what positive impacts do you think this initiative will bring on the maritime cooperation between China and Thailand?
H.E. Gen. Chatchai Sarikalya: I really admire the idea of “the Belt and Road” advocated by Chinese leaders, because China and ASEAN or even Central Asia, South Asia and Europe regions can be linked together under this initiative. I believe that such a link will expand cooperation of the countries along the route in the fields of trade and investment, etc.
Through the advancement of building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, benefits will be brought to China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and other members of ASEAN and the rest of the world. Thailand, located in the center of ASEAN, is the transportation hub in the region. The conditions of land and sea transportation are favorable in Thailand. Thailand serves well as the connecting point of the marine transportation between China and ASEAN.
Under the framework of building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, China may take advantage of Thailand’s ports, for instance, Laem Chabang Port can be used as a connecting point to make countries in the region linked together. Along the route, goods can be distributed, tourism can be developed, and cultural exchanges can be promoted between Laem Chabang Port (Thailand) and Guangxi Beibu Gulf Port (China) which are endowed with regional advantages. In years to come, we will build new deep-water ports, in addition to Laem Chabang Port. In order to adapt to the development of marine transportation, we will improve the existing ports in the south to build them into deep-water ports, thus facilitating the development of trade and investment.
In retrospect, in the 19th century, Europe was the main force of global economic development; in the 20th century, America led the world; while in the 21st century, I believe, the world’s economic center is shifting towards Asia. I really appreciate the idea of building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road advocated by Chinese leaders whose initiative will boost a better development in the region of China and ASEAN. China and ASEAN countries may regard the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road as a connectivity thoroughfare in the fields of trade, tourism, and so on, to accelerate the regional development. This burgeoning trend will be more obvious.
China-ASEAN Panorama: How will Thailand involve in the preparations for the construction of the Maritime Silk Road，so as to drive Thailand’s infrastructure construction and give impetus to the development of its national economy?
H.E. Gen. Chatchai Sarikalya: Geographically, Thailand, located in the center of ASEAN, serves as the transportation hub in the region and the base of producing and distributing products from ASEAN countries and East Asia. Through the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road advocated by China, countries along the route can be linked together, goods from ASEAN transported to China, and goods from China exported to the rest of ASEAN countries by way of Thailand.
In recent years, Thailand has made great progress in its logistics of highway, railway and air transportation, and Thailand and China are accelerating their cooperation in the building of infrastructure. The north and northeast of Thailand are striving to develop the building of special economic zones, to attract the enterprises from foreign countries, especially from China, to invest in Thailand.
Thailand-China high-speed railway, one of the major cooperation projects between our two countries, is a good thing that it is worth cheering. The Thailand-China high-speed railway cooperation has been reached, which will play a favorable role in promoting the building of infrastructure between Thailand and its neighboring countries. Goods can be transported to the Gulf of Thailand along the railway line by way of Nong Khai, Kang Koi, Bankok and Map Ta Phut. Chinese technologies will be applied to the building of Thailand-China high-speed railway, and the preferential loans can be provided by China to Thailand. The construction of the project is set to start within 2015, and it is estimated that its total construction time will last for 3 years.
I believe that the results of Thailand-China cooperation over the past 40 years are just a starting point, and what we have achieved will guide the way towards the “stable, prosperous and everlasting” development of Thailand and China. May the friendship between Thailand and China last forever. Meanwhile, I hope the two sides are well prepared for economic cooperation. Thailand and China are welcomed to work together to walk on the long and broad road with unlimited potential.
Source from CHINA-ASEAN PANORAMA