BANGKOK (Bangkok Post): Thailand and China yesterday agreed to double bilateral trade to US$120 billion over the next five years from an estimated $60 billion at the end of this year.
China also showed strong intentions to invest in 10 industries targeted by the Thai government for promotion as clusters. The two countries agreed to establish a joint committee to ease investment and address obstacles.
The 10 targeted industries are next-generation cars; smart electronics; affluent, medical and wellness tourism; agriculture and biotechnology; food; robotics for industry; logistics and aviation; biofuels and biochemicals; digital; and medical services.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the agreement was reached yesterday during the fourth meeting of the Joint Committee on Trade, Investment and Economic Cooperation between Thailand and China.
He said the two countries also agreed to speed up medium-speed rail development linking Nong Khai and Bangkok. Construction is scheduled to begin next year.
“The interest rate on the loans from China is no longer a significant issue, as both parties accept that the cooperation on rail development will be a win-win agreement,” Somkid said.
He said Thailand also asked for Chinese cooperation on transport development in southern Thailand, where plans call for deep-sea ports in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.
In a related development, Thailand and China yesterday signed four memoranda of understanding, including one on the export of Thai agricultural products to China and others on technology sharing and development of an innovation and science park.
Somkid affirmed to 180 Chinese investors at the Thai-Chinese Business Forum, organized by the Board of Investment (BoI), that despite the world’s sluggish economy and Thailand’s export slowdown, the domestic economy is projected to manage growth in a range of 2.9% to 3% this year and 3.5% to 4% next year.
Thailand’s foreign reserves amount to $157 billion, with short-term foreign debt worth $55 billion. Somkid also mentioned Thailand’s low inflation and unemployment rates.
Wang Yong, a Chinese state councilor, hailed the strong industrial structures of China and Thailand, saying they could offer each other support.
The Chinese government is willing to help Thailand as part of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, which envisions a 21st-century trade-related update of the old Silk Road.
Wang also praised Thailand’s industrial cluster development, saying the policy would help enhance the country’s sustainable development.
BoI secretary-general Hiranya Sujinai predicted Chinese investment would grow every year.
“Foreign direct investment from China in the first 10 months of this year reached 12 billion baht, and the figure is expected to rise further thanks to the joint development of the railway project linking Nong Khai and Bangkok,” Mrs Hiranya said.
To work towards attracting more Chinese investment, the Thai government will hold a roadshow in China in the first quarter of 2016, she said.