The productive exchange between Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and the Canadian PM focused on the need to conclude a free trade agreement currently being negotiated between both countries with sporadic talks since 2013.
Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and his Canadian counterpart have promised their governments will work to expedite a free trade agreement between the two countries as Thailand seeks more trade and investment opportunities from Western countries and Canada seeks to strengthen its relationship with Southeast Asia and in particular, the ASEAN community. Both leaders met on Thursday at the venue for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco which wrapped up on Friday.
As Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin returns from a successful week at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco where he met key world leaders including US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida among others, one of the most successful exchanges was on Thursday when the Prime Minister met the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The meeting took place at the Musconi Centre on the south side of San Francisco, the venue for this week’s successful summit of Pacific rim nations which generated a significant amount of goodwill even between the United States and China which are increasingly opposed over geopolitical issues.
PM emphasised Thailand’s credentials as a growing production base for Electric vehicles in Southeast Asia, a key development strategy of the kingdom
Mr Srettha had spent the week advertising Thailand as an alternative production base to China with the exodus from the Communist mainland by industrial players now in full swing, with many of them looking to establish bases in Southeast Asia, where Thailand is openly competing now with Vietnam to attract potential projects.
Prime Minister Srettha, when speaking to the Canadian Prime Minister, as with other world leaders this week, emphasised Thailand’s strategy of developing the country as a base for the production of EVs or electric cars, which constituted no less than 8.7% of new vehicles purchased in the kingdom in 2023.
Unquestionably, this was a surprisingly positive outcome even for Thai planners and a vote of confidence by Thai consumers in the new electric vehicle technology despite growing international scepticism and adverse incidents being reported in Thailand itself.
Top US technology firms commit to Thailand at the Summit as Mr Srettha told Mr Trudeau of Thailand’s tax incentives and schemes for inward investors
A spokesman for the Prime Minister on Thursday, Mr Chai Wacharonke, said the Thai and Canadian leaders discussed the international situation and both expressed their concern at rising geopolitical tensions and flashpoints.
Prime Minister Srettha told the Canadian Prime Minister about Thailand’s tax incentive and promotion schemes to attract private investors to the kingdom.
During the week, leading technology companies such as AWS, Google and Microsoft pledged to increase their investment in Thailand as it attempts to transform itself into a high-technology economy.
The Prime Minister highlighted Thailand’s strategic geographic location and political standing within the 10-nation ASEAN community, which has begun to attract the interest of international firms keen to avoid being impacted again by geopolitical problems.
Canada has its own Indo-Pacific strategy
The Canadian Prime Minister Mr Trudeau explained to Mr Srettha that Canada, in November 2022, published its Indo-Pacific strategy as the country seeks to renew its links with the region and increase its engagement, which for some time past has been neglected.
New Air Canada link from Vancouver to Bangkok an aviation first, will boost American arrivals to Thailand
In December last year, Air Canada began a flight schedule to Bangkok in a move which has helped the kingdom in its campaign to attract more connected flights, in particular from Western countries and the Americas.
Canada is currently pursuing a diversification program as it seeks to address the challenges that have arisen in China and is looking towards the ASEAN community for closer engagement.
Meanwhile, Canada is also strengthening its relations with both Japan and South Korea, as well as India, even though both countries were involved in a diplomatic flare-up in October when the Canadian Prime Minister himself in Parliament alleged that the Indian government had been linked to the murder of a Canadian citizen in a Vancouver suburb.
Tensions and spats between Canada and both China and India over human rights abuses and the rule of law in recent times as it upholds international order
The murder victim was identified as Sikh separatist leader Mr Hardeep Singh Nijar.
India vehemently denied the allegation, but its state security agencies refer to Mr Nijar as a terrorist.
Canada is also the subject of rising criticism from Chinese officials because of its forthright stance on human rights, given the deteriorating conditions in the Communist country over the last decade.
The North American country has made a name for itself as an upholder of international law and standards with regard to human rights.
The Canadian and Thai Prime Ministers noted that both countries do not yet have a free trade agreement with each other, but that one is currently being negotiated between officials, and if completed would represent an opportunity to deepen trade ties between the Kingdom and Canada which is a leading country in the Commonwealth of Nations.
Trade talks have so far not proved fruitful
In September 2019, Canada opened discussions with both Thailand and the ASEAN community regarding a possible free trade pact. The first round of talks was in August 2022 with further discussions held in November 2022.
Previously, talks opened in March 2013 between Canada and Thailand but concluded in July 2015 without agreement.
The value of bilateral trade in goods between the two countries reached $6.4 billion in 2022, a record high.
Thailand imported Canadian goods valued at $1.2 billion while the Kingdom’s exports were $5.2 billion.
Bilateral services btwen the countries amounted to $314 million in 2021.