First meeting touts stronger Pacific Islands ties

First meeting touts stronger Pacific Islands ties

Thailand has offered to open a new chapter of development and economic partnership with Pacific Islands nations at an inaugural meeting in Bangkok yesterday.

As host of the first Thailand-Pacific Island Countries Forum, deputy NCPO chief Tanasak Patimapragorn said Thailand is ready to work closely in areas of trade and investment, despite the current period of political transition.

He insisted both sides could share mutual benefits and overcome challenges such as geographic distance and climate change. Cooperation could extend to development, food and water security, as well as disaster management and connectivity, he added.

Former Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan encouraged the Pacific Islands countries to engage with Thailand at various levels, saying the country has maintained positive relationships with many dialogue partners.

Delivering a keynote speech on Thailand’s role in Asean and the Asia-Pacific, Mr Surin said Thailand sees all Pacific Islands countries as promising potential partners.

Thailand can offer help with marine development, exchange of agribusiness expertise, and health and human resources development due to its high standard of food production, he said, adding that this "is the time for more cooperation, not more isolation".

At the half-day meeting yesterday, the Foreign Ministry identified three key areas of cooperation: sustainable development, economic cooperation and cooperation in international forums.

American and South Pacific Affairs Department director-general Songsak Saicheua stressed a readiness to expand cooperation projects in the Pacific region by providing capacity-building programmes, training courses and study trips.

Narong Sasitorn, deputy permanent secretary for foreign affairs, said Thailand should do more to enhance partnership and cooperation.

Nauru President Baron Waga said he was happy with the meeting as development in his country was limited. He also expressed interest on fisheries cooperation with Thailand, saying that “the relationship between the two countries will be stronger.”

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