THAILAND is seeking to further flesh out its strategic economic cooperation with China by promoting another layer of ties built on direct connections with some Chinese provinces.
After meeting China's State Councillor Wang Yong in Beijing on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak revealed details of a high-level joint commission meeting in August between Thai and Chinese officials under which they agreed to upgrade economic cooperation in matters extending from trade, manufacturing and investment to communications technology and finance.
The Chinese government has agreed in principle with the proposal and is ready to sign a cooperation agreement at a future meeting, Somkid said.
"Thailand is the first nation to have this kind of economic cooperation with China in all aspects, upgrading the strategic cooperation from the earlier five-year plan which is about to end,” he said.
Somkid said that China was asked to join Thailand, as a centre for Asean and the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) grouping, to help develop these regions for further Thailand-China cooperation that draws on the particular engagement of 11 of China’s provinces. ACMECS is a political, economic and cultural organisation that encompasses Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Somkid proposed a formal cooperative mechanism between Thailand and Chinese provinces in the booming Pan Pearl River Delta (PPRD) region in the country’s south.
The mechanism could start from three to four provinces based around close cooperation with Thailand. At least one meeting with Thailand is proposed.
This mechanism could forge in-depth economic cooperation among the two countries and create connections between China's One Belt, One Road scheme and the countries of Asean and ACMECS, Somkid said.
Somkid said that Thailand has also asked China to further promote Thailand as a tourism destination for Chinese, telling the Chinese State Councillor that “the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourist Police Bureau will be well-prepared to facilitate and provide safety for Chinese tourists”.
During the Beijing visit, Somkid had discussions with representatives of tyre producer Prinx Chengshan (Shandong) Tire and Alibaba's artificial intelligence (AI) startup Megvii Technology.
The Prinx Chengshan (Shandong) Tire executives said that the company will make a first-phase investment of about Bt10 billion in Chon Buri province, in the heart of the Eastern Economic Corridor, and a second-phase investment of about Bt10 billion. Megvii Technology, which specialises in AI, smart cities and safety systems, wants to use Thailand as its manufacturing base for the region.
“We are confident that private firms from China will expand their investments in Thailand, as China’s government has a policy to support its corporates’ expanding their investments overseas,” Somkid said. Thailand is one of the potential countries for Chinese companies to expand their investments.”
He said that, given China’s trade conflict with the US, now is the time for Chinese firms to expand their investment abroad, especially in Southeast Asia.
“We expect that China firms will expand their investments in Thailand, especially in the Eastern Economic Corridor, by focussing on 5G technology. This is a new technology that will move the country forward to Thailand 4.0,” Somkid said, referring to the government’s technology vision for the country.