Thai PM makes first visit to France in 7 years

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BERLIN, July 20 – Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrives in France today on the second leg of her official visit to Europe since taking office last year and the first visit to France by a Thai premier in seven years.

Ms Yingluck is scheduled to stay in Paris for two days at the invitation of French President François Hollande. The visit will underscore the importance of the Thai-French strategic partnership under the Thai-French joint action plan.

Speaking to reporters before leaving Berlin for Paris later Friday, Ms Yingluck said Thailand and France have been longtime trade partners. She will take this opportunity to exchange viewpoints on the eurozone debt crisis. Thailand will affirm its readiness to support European Union policies to promote good governance, upgrade policy coordination and prevent economic imbalances in the regional grouping’s member countries, as well as financial bailouts for troubled economies.

Ms Yingluck said she expects to gather first-hand information on eurozone economic problems which will be useful for Thailand in handling their possible impact on the Thai economy.

She emphasised that Thailand will foster trade and investment with France and expand Thai business opportunities as well as persuade more French companies to invest in Thailand as it is a regional hub connecting to other member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

An official statement posted on the Thai foreign ministry’s website said Prime Minister Yingluck is scheduled to meet with President François Hollande, who is playing a crucial role in resolving the current economic crisis in Europe. Afterward she will have a discussion followed by a working lunch with French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

During her visit, the Thai premier will witness the signing of the “Intergovernment Agreement for Cooperation in Education and Research between the Government of Thailand and the Government of the French Republic”, which will further strengthen Thai-French academic and scientific cooperation.

Representatives from important Thai business sectors including the Federation of Thai Industries, the Board of Trade of Thailand, the Thai Bankers’ Association and other associations accompanying the prime minister will attend a business seminar to exchange views on how to expand trade and investment with French economic experts and business counterparts.

The visit will further strengthen the bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries. The scheduled visit will be the first visit to France by a Thai Prime Minister in 7 years.

The last visit was in 2005 when then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Ms Yingluck’s brother, officially visited France at the invitation of French President Jacques Chirac.

Ms Yingluck met German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Chancellery on Wednesday, the first day of her official visit in Europe marking the 150th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Germany.

The two countries planned to increase trade and investment value through bilateral cooperative mechanisms such as the Joint Thai-German Economic Committee (JEC).

The Thai premier said she was satisfied with her visit in Germany which resulted in various kinds of cooperation and that German Economic Minister Philipp Roesler will visit Thailand next month to follow up and proceed to apply this week’s agreements.