Why Franco-Thai relations matter

Why Franco-Thai relations matter

France's President Emmanuel Macron, centre, walks with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul at Government House on Friday. AFP
France's President Emmanuel Macron, centre, walks with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul at Government House on Friday. AFP

Under Thailand's Apec Host Year theme of "Open. Connect. Balance", Thailand has worked hard to promote trade and investment that is open to all opportunities, reconnect the region, and drive Apec towards a balanced, inclusive, and sustainable post-Covid19 growth through the Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Economy Model.

This approach will be remembered as a major milestone in the history of Apec while economies are navigating a turbulent world.

The government took another historic initiative by inviting French President Emmanuel Macron as guest of the chair to talk to the leaders of the 21 member economies of Apec. It was the first time since the creation of Apec in 1989 that a European head of state or government had been invited to the Apec Summit.

Five reasons explained this initiative, which was as relevant as it was visionary for the future of the region.

1. France is not only a European nation but also a fully-fledged Indo-Pacific country. Over 1.6 million French citizens live in the French overseas territories in the region, notably in the South Pacific, while three-quarters of the French exclusive economic zone -- the world's second largest -- are located in the Indo-Pacific.

France maintains close economic relations with Apec economies, particularly in terms of investment. Nearly a quarter of French direct investment abroad was directed in 2021 to one of the Apec economies, while a quarter of foreign direct investment in France comes from the Apec region.

2. Since the spring of 2018, France has implemented its Indo-Pacific strategy, which makes the region one of its diplomatic priorities, particularly in economic terms. Together with the EU which also coined its own Indo-Pacific strategy in September 2021, France wants to reinforce its role as a cooperative partner in the region, bringing added value to relations with all its partners.

We are committed to working collectively and comprehensively in the region, fostering a rules-based international order, a level-playing field as well as an open and fair environment for trade and investment, reciprocity, the strengthening of resilience, tackling climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, and supporting connectivity.

3. The focus of France's strategy towards the Asia-Pacific region on supply chain diversification, digital connectivity, as well as climate change and environmental issues distinctly aligns with Thailand's Apec priorities and the Apec Putrajaya Vision 2040 towards an open, dynamic, resilient, and peaceful Asia-Pacific community for the prosperity of our people and future generations.

There is a strong convergence between Thailand's objectives in the framework of the presidency of Apec and those that France has been pursuing with its Indo-Pacific strategy. France recognises itself in the ambition of the "Bangkok Objectives" on the BCG.

4. We share the common task of addressing the devastating economic effects of the Covid-19 crisis and of the aggression of Russia against Ukraine for many countries in the region and the need to ensure a sustainable and inclusive socio-economic recovery. France is concerned by the current dynamics in the Apec region that have given rise to intense geopolitical competition adding to increasing tensions on trade and supply chains as well as in technological security.

These developments threaten the stability and security of the region which needs mitigating approaches. This is exactly what France is proposing. As mentioned by President Macron in his address to the Apec CEO Summit, France wants to contribute to the emergence of a "dynamic balance" in the region.

We see ourselves as a balancing power which rejects the logic of blocs, and is committed to work with all of our Asian partners on concrete projects, in particular with Asean, with which we established a development partnership in 2020.

5. President Macron's visit to Thailand was also timely regarding our bilateral relations. While France and Thailand enjoy longstanding relations that have spanned for over three centuries, this visit was the occasion to renew our commitment to reinforcing stronger partnership through the Roadmap for Thai-French Relations for the year 2022-2024 signed on Feb 22 in Paris with a view to establishing a strategic partnership between France and Thailand by 2024.

The Joint Press Statement on the Bilateral Discussions between the President of the French Republic and the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand issued on Nov 17, is a good illustration of this commitment both at the bilateral level and regarding global challenges like the promotion of the Global Health approach and the protection of biodiversity, two areas in which France and Thailand are determined to work together for the benefit of the whole region.

This was illustrated during President Macron's visit by the adhesion of Thailand to two major international initiatives co-sponsored by France: the Preventing Zoonotic Disease Emergence (PREZODE) Initiative and the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People which aims to achieve an agreement to protect at least 30% of the planet's lands and seas by 2030 at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

France and the EU are more than ever committed to work with Apec economies along the lines drawn during the Bangkok Summit under the leadership of Thailand.

Thierry Mathou, Ambassador of France to the Kingdom of Thailand.

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