Prime Minister Settha Thavisin’s Paris tête-à-tête with French President Emmanuel Macron heralds a push for visa-free Schengen access for Thai passport holders. Amid trade and nuclear power talks, Thailand eyes closer ties with the EU.

French President Emmanuel Macron is to visit Thailand in 2025. In the meantime, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is expecting positive news on Thailand’s push to allow its passport holders visa-free access to the European Schengen zone by the end of 2024. These were just some of the upshots from an important meeting in Paris between the French head of state and the Thai PM on Monday. In addition, the talks covered French expertise in civil nuclear power and the possibility of a Formula 1 Grand Prix stage coming to Thailand. Afterwards, PM Srettha Thavisin announced that Thailand’s free trade pact with the European Union was on track to be sealed in 2025.

On Monday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and French President Emmanuel Macron met at the Élysée Palace in the French capital, Paris. The Thai government leader and French head of state discussed a range of issues, including the finalisation of a free trade pact between Thailand and the European Union, Formula 1 racing, nuclear power and visa-free access to the Schengen zone for Thai travellers.

On Monday, PM Srettha Thavisin, in a landmark visit to Paris, discussed trade and diplomatic matters with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The talks, at the Élysée Palace were characterised by optimism and mutual cooperation.

There were a number of interesting outcomes to the discourse. Significantly, Macron pledged Mr Srettha his support for Thailand’s push for free visa access for Thai travellers across Schengen countries. The matter is to come before European Union authorities in June.

Free trade pact with the European Union could be finalised by 2025 declared a bullish Mr Srettha after positive and extensive talks with the French leader

Addressing the media, Prime Minister Thavisin highlighted the significance of strengthening ties with the European Union (EU). 

He announced Thailand’s ambition to finalise negotiations over a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU by 2025. These discussions, he stated, are expected to conclude within eighteen months.

Negotiations between Thailand and the EU, resumed last year after a hiatus of nearly a decade. 

A European Union free trade deal would be a major step towards spurring economic growth. The EU presently stands as Thailand’s fourth-largest trading partner.

Exports from Thailand totaled $21.8 billion in 2023. These spanned various sectors including automobiles, computers, jewellery, and electronics.

Thailand is seeking visa-free access to the European Schengen visa zone. The government is determined to strengthen the value of the Thai passport

The Thai delegation’s discussions with President Macron, in addition, broached the subject of visa exemptions for Thai passport holders.

Thailand is seeking easy access to Thai nationals travelling to Schengen member states. In short, reciprocity for the visa regime offered in reverse to European Union countries.

At the same time, Europe has become a popular destination for middle-class Thai tourists. Furthermore, there are increasing numbers of Thai women living in the bloc married to European partners.

A key policy objective of this government is to strengthen the power of the Thai passport.

Currently, Thai nationals have visa-free access to only 35 countries. The policy is in line with Thailand’s bid to become a global player.

Prime Minister Srettha heralded the decision as a momentous one. He also underlined that the decision strengthened the power of the Thai passport abroad
Questions asked about the Thai Chinese visa waiver scheme ahead of high profile visit to Beijing to sign the deal

On March 1st, a mutual pact with China came into effect. Citizens and passport holders from both countries can now travel both ways with an automatic tourist visa issued on entry at the airport.

Announcing the move in January, Mr Srettha made his plans for Thai passport holders clear.

Macron expressed his support for Thailand’s quest to offer its citizens greater freedom of movement between Thailand and European Union member countries

The Schengen zone is similar to the European Union bloc except for Ireland.

However, it also includes Iceland. The reason why Ireland is not part of the zone is that it has a crucially important Common Travel Area with the United Kingdom.

President Macron expressed support for Thailand’s request.

He said it signalled a positive step towards enhancing travel opportunities for citizens of both nations.

The process for visa exemption is expected to commence after the European Parliament elections, with completion anticipated by the year-end.

In addition to trade negotiations, the talks covered the strengthening of bilateral relations through cultural and diplomatic exchanges. 

President Macron’s forthcoming visit to Thailand in 2025 further emphasises the deepening bond between the two nations.

PM Srettha and Ung Ing met Bernard Arnault, the luxury fashion empire boss and world’s wealthiest man

In addition, a high-powered French business delegation will visit Thailand in September.

Previously, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and Pheu Thai Party leader Paetongtarn Shinawatra or Ung Ing met Bernard Arnault. Mr Arnault is the boss of LVMH, a giant fashion empire. 

Mr Arnault is reported to be the wealthiest businessman in the world. He controls the Christian Dior empire and a huge fashion conglomerate.

Forbes, in the last week, estimated his fortune at $229 billion.

French energy giant and nuclear power specialist EDF introduced to Srettha although he was on guard. The Thai PM underlined the sensitivity of the issue

Prime Minister Thavisin also discussed other issues during his tête-à-tête with Macron.

In particular, he engaged with executives of EDF, the French electricity generation authority. EDF is a leading European energy distributor and nuclear power specialist. 

In turn, Mr Srettha was on guard during these talks. He made it clear that the use of nuclear power was a sensitive matter for Thailand.

Similarly, he emphasised transparency and public consultation.

Certainly, the Prime Minister reiterated the government’s commitment to a cautious appraisal of this energy option for Thailand.

Any future consideration of nuclear power for Thailand will be considered in a methodical and open manner.

Discussion also on the possibility of a Thai Formula 1 Grand Prix stage in the future to boost tourism and the kingdom’s international profile worldwide

Moreover, discussions with Formula One (F1) executives were also engaged in by the high-powered Thai delegation to Paris.

Mr Srettha highlighted Thailand’s potential as a host for international sporting events.

The possibility of organising a Thai Grand Prix race garnered attention. In short, the Prime Minister expressed confidence in Thailand’s readiness to host such an event.

The proposal aligns with Thailand’s broader foreign policy and economic goals. In brief, to boost tourism and enhance the kingdom’s global image as a premier destination for sports and leisure.

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