Thailand aims to get rail transport ties with China on track
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.