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PM Prayut pushes for free trade at Asia-Europe meeting

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha called for more free-trade agreements and closer cooperation between Thailand, other Asian nations and Europe while attending the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Milan, Italy, last week, his first international summit since becoming Thailand’s leader in May. 
 
In addition to increasing and expanding free-trade agreements, Prayut advocated deepening partnerships and improving risk management in order to forge closer exchanges and stronger working relationships between the countries of the two regions.  Forging closer relationships requires political will, he said.
 
Leaders of the 28 European Union (E.U.) member states and two other European countries, officials of the European Union, and leaders of 21 Asian countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat attended the two-day ASEM summit. 
 
Relations between the E.U. and Thailand have rapidly returned to near normal after the E.U. had criticized the military intervention in Thai politics earlier this year, and froze cooperation in certain areas as a sign of disapproval.   The E.U. and many of its member countries have continued to work with Thailand in many areas, aside from maintaining significant levels of trade and investment.
 
Thailand and the E.U. had begun talks on a free-trade agreement during the previous administration, but they were halted in May.  Prayut made it clear during his speech that he would like work on a free-trade agreement to resume, insisting it would benefit both sides.
 
Prayut also engaged in bilateral meetings on the sidelines with Asian leaders including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
 
The Thai prime minister asked his Chinese counterpart to encourage his country to import more Thai agricultural products, including rice and rubber.  Although China is the world’s largest producer of rice, its output does not meet domestic demand.  Furthermore, industrial contamination of some rice-growing areas has led China’s consumers to seek imported rice.
 
In a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Prayut agreed that diplomats from the two countries would step up talks on jointly developing energy resources in the Gulf of Thailand.  Both countries have claims to areas in the Gulf, and some of them overlap and are in dispute.  In a similar situation, Thailand and Malaysia worked out an arrangement to share the energy resources.
 
Also during the ASEM summit, Prayut met with British Prime Minister David Cameron.  As a result of their discussions, the Thai Prime Minister agreed to allow a team of British police to come to Thailand to observe the investigation of the murder of two British tourists on a resort island last month.  The case has been mired in controversy.
 
See full article at Thailand e-Focus

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