Daily Times, Lahore, 11 May 2005
Thailand supports Pakistan’s ASEAN bid
* To start FTA talks
* Pakistan to export JF-17 aircraft to Thailand
By Khalid Mustafa
BANGKOK: Thailand on Monday became the first non-Muslim country to support Pakistan’s bid to become a full dialogue partner of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and agreed to start talks on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the South Asian country.
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz addressed a press conference at Government House, where the Thai premier said, “Thailand will definitely support and welcome the intention of Pakistan to further integrate with East Asia and will support Pakistan for full dialogue partner with ASEAN.” Pakistan is already in the ASEAN Regional Forum. Shaukat Aziz’s visit is being seen as an important step towards consolidating Pakistan’s strategic Vision ‘East Asia’, which envisages forging multidimensional relations with East Asian economies.
Shinawatra also said Thailand supported Pakistan’s proposal of wanting to sign a declaration with ASEAN to combat terrorism.
He said Thailand and Pakistan had decided to start a comprehensive economic partnership to increase bilateral trade in all economic sectors. “Both countries have also decided to start talking about an FTA. We have also decided to form a joint study group that will start technical talks on the FTA,” he added. Both countries discussed international, regional, political, diplomatic and economic issues during the 40-minute meeting between both prime ministers, who later headed their delegations in an hour-long meeting that covered all trade issues, the Thai premier said.
Thailand would also start two more flights to Islamabad, he said. There are five flights from Thailand to Karachi and Lahore.
Shinawatra also said Trhailand would help Pakistani students seek education in the East Asian country. According to sources privy to the meetings, both countries also discussed cooperating in defence, with Pakistan to export the JF-17 fighter aircraft to Thailand.
Shaukat Aziz said both countries would try to sign the Early Harvest Programme by the end of 2005, keeping in view the recommendation of the Joint Study Group. He said both countries had also decided to increase bilateral trade to about $1 billion a year. He said that Pakistan and Thailand would sign a Bilateral Investment Treaty.
Shinawatra said he knew Shaukat Aziz for 15 years, when both were in the business sector. He said both were the 23rd prime ministers of their respective countries and were born in the same year.