Obama arrives on whirlwind tour
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra reaffirmed yesterday that Thailand and the United States will cooperate in talks on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and security issues.
- Published: 19/11/2012 at 12:00 AM
- Newspaper section: topstories
President Barack Obama took a photo album for His Majesty the King to the audience - containing photos and details of all the US presidents His Majesty has met, dating back to Dwight Eisenhower in 1954. Mr Obama joked he had left the last page blank for this photo. (Photo Courtesy of the Royal Household Bureau)
The pledge was made at a joint press conference held last night only hours after President Obama arrived in Bangkok in the first leg of his Southeast Asian tour. The trip, which also includes stops in Myanmar and Cambodia, is aimed at reinforcing the US presence in the region.
Addressing the joint press conference with Ms Yingluck, Mr Obama said the choice of Bangkok as his first foreign visit after re-election reflects Southeast Asia's rising economic prospects and Thailand's potential to play a leading role in the Asia-Pacific region.
"During the past decade, we understandably have been a country which has been focused on terrorism and the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a consequence, we have not had the same kind of presence in the region that is growing and developing faster than any place in the world," Mr Obama said.
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While expressing his appreciation for the government's firm commitment to democracy, rule of law and governance, Mr Obama said security and trade and investment were his two key priority issues in bilateral discussions with Thai leaders Sunday.
He said cooperation in trade and investment would centre on TPP negotiations.
Washington's push for the TPP trade agreement has met with strong criticism. The pact's power to set rules and settle business disputes, influence over the pharmaceutical industry and intellectual property, its capacity to open the financial sector, and the lack of transparency of negotiations has been cited by opponents. Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam have already begun TPP negotiations with the US.
According to a joint press statement, President Obama welcomes Thailand's interest in the TPP negotiations, which will be subject to the necessary domestic legal procedures.
Article 190 of the constitution requires the government to hold public hearings before submitting any international agreement for parliamentary approval.
Mr Obama said future security cooperation will centre on helping Thai forces in maritime operations against pirates and preparing for disaster relief missions.
He said the election of Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament and the release of political prisoners are positive signs of democratic development in Myanmar.
"This is not an endorsement of Burma's [Myanmar's] government, but an acknowledgement that the process is underway inside the country," he said.
Ms Yingluck said the government has agreed to begin negotiations with the US on the TPP agreement, but it would engage all stakeholders and submit it for parliamentary approval as required by the constitution.
She added that the economic integration of Asean under the Asean Economic Community (AEC) starting in 2015 would also improve prosperity in the region.
"We welcome the US's renewed focus on Southeast Asia," Ms Yingluck said.
Ms Yingluck urged the international community to help Myanmar to push forward its political and economic reforms before the commencement of the AEC in 2015.
Mr Obama arrived in Air Force One at the Royal Thai Airforce's airbase at Don Mueang airport about 3pm Sunday. He was received by Privy Councillor Surayud Chulanont, who represented His Majesty the King, along with Deputy Prime Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, US ambassador Kristie Kenney and other high-ranking officials amid tight security.
At 3.45pm, the US president visited Wat Pho temple. He was accompanied by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Thailand earlier in the day.
At 4.53pm, Mr Obama was granted an audience with His Majesty King on the 14th floor of the Chalerm Prakiat building at Siriraj Hospital.
At 6pm, he met Prime Minister Yingluck at Government House. The two leaders reviewed honour guards and then held bilateral talks on a range of issues before attending a dinner reception hosted by Ms Yingluck.
At 9pm, Mr Obama met the US ambassador, US embassy staff and American businessmen at a sports complex at Chulalongkorn University before he returned to the Four Seasons Hotel where he spent the night.
He will travel Monday to Myanmar.
His Majesty the King givesUSPresident BarackObamaan audience at Siriraj Hospital yesterday. MrObamais on a three-country visit to Southeast Asia,which concludes tomorrow.
About the author
- Writer: Parista Yuthamanop & Thanida Tansubhapol