Bangkok Post, 10 May 2005
Plan for FTA with Islamabad
Thailand and Pakistan have agreed in principle to draw up a free trade area (FTA) agreement under the Economic Comprehensive Partnership between the two nations.
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said a joint study group would be set up to make a feasibility study.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said an FTA woud be a significant development in the Thailand-Pakistan relationship and could lift two-way trade to US$1 billion, up from $496 million in 2004. Thailand had a trade surplus of about $375 million with Pakistan.
The two leaders also agreed to promote tourist cooperation. Thai Airways International would add a new twice-weekly flight to its Bangkok-Islamabad route, raising the number of commercial flights between the two countries from nine to 11 a week.
Mr Aziz said he hoped more Thais would visit the country’s ``Buddhist heritage’’ such as Taxila, a famous centre of learning of Buddhism, and Takht-i-Bahi, an ancient monastery from Lord Buddha’s time.
THAI president Kanok Abhiradee said he expected the number of passengers travelling to Pakistan to rise to 50,000 this year, up from 40,000 last year.
Mr Thaksin also supported Pakistan becoming more integrated with East Asia and joining a full dialogue partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Both countries would also increase cooperation on security issues.