Thai­land aims to get rail trans­port ties with China on track

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By ZHONG­NAN zhong­nan@chi­

Thai­land is seek­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties to col­lab­o­rate with China, es­pe­cially in the ar­eas of rail trans­port, agri­cul­tural prod­ucts and tourism, af­ter months of po­lit­i­cal tur­moil.

Phai­chit Vi­boon­tanasarn, com­mer­cial min­is­ter at the Thai em­bassy in Bei­jing, said that plans for a high-speed rail line link­ing Chi­ang­mai and Bangkok have been mod­i­fied by the new Thai gov­ern­ment, led by for­mer army head Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The rail­way will in­stead be a con­ven­tional line con­nect­ing Nong Khai in north­east Thai­land with the cap­i­tal. Phai­chit said the coun­try will grad­u­ally im­prove its na­tional rail­way net­work and work closely with Chi­nese com­pa­nies that have ma­ture tech­nol­ogy at prices lower than those of many in­ter­na­tional com­peti­tors.

Many parts of Thai­land’s rail net­work are still sin­gle-track lines, and the gov­ern­ment wants to im­prove the ba­sic rail sys­tem first by build­ing dou­ble-track lines and re­lated fa­cil­i­ties.

Phai­chit said that the Thai gov­ern­ment wants to es­tab­lish or im­prove rail links with neigh­bor­ing coun­tries such as Laos, Cam­bo­dia, Brunei and Malaysia, as well as con­nect­ing to China via Laos in the future.

Thai­land is a large mem­ber econ­omy of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions, which has 600 mil­lion con­sumers.

“With sta­ble economic growth driven by tourism, mod­ern manufacturing and agri­cul­tural devel­op­ment, Thai­land will build its own high-speed rail­way sys­tem when the time is ripe, which will help us fur­ther en­hance trade. China surely will be a big con­trib­u­tor to our high-speed rail­way sec­tor,” Phai­chit said.

Bi­lat­eral trade surged from $26 mil­lion in 1975 to $70 bil­lion in 2013, and this grow­ing trade has im­proved the ser­vice sec­tors in­clud­ing avi­a­tion, tourism and ho­tels.

Ban­gorn­rat Shi­napray­oon, direc­tor of the Tourism Au­thor­ity of Thai­land’s Bei­jing of­fice, said: “Thai­land is do­ing its best to re­duce the neg­a­tive im­pact of the po­lit­i­cal chaos and has shifted the gov­ern­ment’s top pri­or­ity to economic devel­op­ment, es­pe­cially the tourism, agri­cul­tural pro­cess­ing, trans­porta­tion, elec­tron­ics and ve­hi­cle in­dus­tries.”

In the first seven months of this year, 2.22 mil­lion Chi­nese vis­ited Thai­land.

Ban­gorn­rat said that Thai­land ex­pects 4.3 mil­lion Chi­nese tourists this year.

“Thai­land has waived visa fees for Chi­nese tourists from Au­gust 9 to Novem­ber 8 and opened eight cus­toms chan­nels for Chi­nese visi­tors at air­ports in Thai­land,” Ban­gorn­rat said.

Economic min­is­ters fromthe 16 par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries of the Re­gion­alCom­pre­hen­sive Economic Part­ner­ship have re­it­er­ated their com­mit­ment to con­clude ne­go­ti­a­tions by the end of 2015.

The min­is­ters reaf­firmed they are com­mit­ted to end­ing the RCEP ne­go­ti­a­tions in line with the vi­sion en­dorsed by their state lead­ers for a mod­ern, com­pre­hen­sive, high-qual­ity and mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial economic part­ner­ship agree­ment that would sup­port the achieve­ment of theASEAN­com­mu­nity and deeper re­gional economic in­te­gra­tion, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment is­sued on Thurs­day.

TheRCEPis a pro­posed free trade agree­ment between the 10 mem­ber­states of theAs­so­ci­a­tion ofSouth­east­Asian Na­tions and the six coun­tries ofAus­tralia, China, In­dia, Ja­pan, SouthKorea andNewZealand, which have an FTAa­gree­ment with­ASEAN.

RCEP ne­go­ti­a­tion­swere for­mally launched in Novem­ber 2012 at theASEANSum­mit in Cam­bo­dia. Five rounds of talks have been held so far.

The min­is­ters made the pledge fol­low­ing the end of the Se­condRCEP Min­is­te­rial Meet­ing in Nay Pyi Taw, Myan­mar. The meet­ing­was part of a se­ries of dis­cus­sions re­lated to the 46thASEANE­co­nomic Min­is­ters Meet­ing.

RCEP economies’ com­bined out­put reached $21.3 tril­lion in 2013, ac­count­ing for nearly 30 per­cent of the­world’s to­tal. To­tal trade ofRCEP economies amounted to $10.7 tril­lion— 29 per­cent of global trade— while to­tal for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment in­flows toRCEP economies reached $339.8 bil­lion— 23.4 per­cent of the global to­tal.

With al­most half of the­world’s pop­u­la­tion, RCEP economies rep­re­sent a mas­sive mar­ket, the min­is­ters said.

They called for con­tin­ued en­gage­ment among all par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries to achieve mean­ing­ful progress in the agreed scope of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The next round of ne­go­ti­a­tion is set to be held fromDec 1-5 in Greater Noida, In­dia.

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