BANGKOK – French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault yesterday discussed trade, investment and cooperation opportunities with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in all areas of mutual interest – from education, infrastructure and research to alternative energy.
The meeting with Yingluck, held after a royal audience with His Majesty the King, touched on investment in infrastructure projects in Thailand, as well as regional issues. The two premiers also exchanged views on prosperity and stability in Asean and the Mekong basin.
During the French premier’s visit, the two countries signed a number of pacts including agreements of cooperation on defence, education and health, as well as a memorandum of understanding on cooperation on an international research network, according to a government statement.
Ayrault heads a delegation that includes executives of 35 firms in various sectors such as aviation, space technology, satellites, rail transportation, energy and banking, who are keen to explore economic links with Thailand.
He said in a seminar prior to the meeting with Yingluck that he wanted to see more trade and investment between France and Thailand. His visit, the first high-level trip since President Jacques Chirac came in 2006, would strengthen ties in politics, education, research and investment, he said.
France was interested in the fast growing development in Asean as it evolves into a community, he said, noting that Asean would have a major role in connecting with the European Union.
France currently ranks eighth in direct investment by European countries in Thailand. Two-way trade last year reached Bt150 billion, up 22 per cent from 2011. Thai imports from France totalled Bt100 billion in 2012 but exports to France only amounted to Bt49.9 billion, according to Deputy Prime Minister Kittirat Na-Ranong, who suggested Thailand could be a regional hub for France to access China and India.
Thai companies have also begun to invest in France in industries such as seafood, by Thai Union Frozen Products Plc, and plastics, by PTT Global Chemical Plc.