Chinese investors courted
Prayut talks trade, ties with China FM
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has invited the Chinese to scale up their investment in Thailand, saying the country's strategic location perfectly positions it as a hub for regional logistics.
Gen Prayut conveyed the message to Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who paid a courtesy call to Government House on Tuesday as part of his two-day visit.
Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana provided a summary of the meeting, saying the prime minister thanked China for all its help and support during the pandemic.
Gen Prayut expressed concern about floods that have struck southern China, saying he hoped the situation would be brought under control quickly.
He praised the two countries' close relationship and hailed the 10th anniversary this year of their Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Both sides agreed in principle to strengthen ties further, the spokesman said.
The prime minister also spoke positively of the growing volume of bilateral trade, which has jumped over 20% this year between January and April. He also thanked China for facilitating shipments of Thai agricultural goods to China.
"Gen Prayut also invited China to scale up its investment in Thailand," Mr Thanakorn said.
The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) is ready for investment in industries Chinese companies specialise in, such as electric cars and the agro-industry, the spokesman quoted the PM as saying.
China attaches great importance to improved connectivity courtesy of the China-Laos railway project and Thailand's expanding railway system, as it believes this will boost trade and tourism, Mr Thanakorn said.
Gen Prayut said the government is trying to ensure the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway project will be completed on schedule.
The two sides agreed to seek ways to address future obstacles for the mutual benefit of people in the region. China also proposed a trilateral meeting with Laos to ensure swift progress on the railway and other projects.
Gen Prayut commended China for allowing Thai commercial airlines to resume flights to the country while permitting Thai students to return to continue their studies, the spokesman said.
China reiterated its support for Thailand to host this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit. If President Xi Jinping is available, he may also attend in person, Mr Thanakorn quoted Mr Wang as saying.
China ranked second in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Thailand last year, with 38.6 billion pledged for 112 projects. Japan topped the list with a combined investment value of 80.7 billion baht for 178 projects. Singapore was third with 29.7 billion baht for 96 projects.
The top three sectors for FDI applications were electrical appliances and electronics, petrochemicals and chemicals, and medical clusters.
According to the Board of Investment (BoI), FDI represented 71% of all the investment pledges worth 455 billion baht in 2021 for a total of 783 project applications, nearly triple the value of 2020 when the applications amounted to 169 billion baht.
Mr Wang arrived in Thailand on Monday and also met his Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai for talks on Tuesday. They discussed a range of topics including efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation with a focus on China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
His visit followed his attendance at the 7th Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bagan, Myanmar.
Mr Wang said China and Thailand have many common goals supporting their mutual development.
"The aim of building [a global community] corresponds to the saying 'China-Thailand are not strangers, but siblings'. It will make our relationship even stronger," he said.
"I think the people of the two countries will believe in our attempt to develop closer ties," he added.
Mr Wang said both sides agreed to initiate the Thailand-Laos-China Economic Corridor, which would link Thailand's EEC with similar projects in Lao and southern China's Yunnan province. Thailand would then be able to deliver products to Europe via this new land-sea corridor.
"Our aim is to push forward logistics, trade and investment to develop these industries in all three countries," he said.
The two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding on enhanced cyber cooperation on Tuesday.
Mr Wang said China is looking forward to Thailand hosting this year's Apec summit, the first since the Covid-19 pandemic surfaced.
"We hope this summit will focus on the Asia-Pacific, development and a regional free trade area," he said.
"Apec, with Thailand as the chair this year, will make this economic framework more vibrant and developed," he added.