By SUPALAK GANJANAKHUNDEE
AGENCE FRANCAISE de Development (AFD) will expand its cooperation with Asean and Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) so France can play a greater role in Thailand and Southeast Asia in the near future.
The French development agency is now holding talks with the two regional organisations and expects to come up with some form of cooperation in the next few years, AFD’s deputy chief for Asia Development Jean-Claude Pires said.
Acting as France’s development bank since the mid-20th century, the AFD has provided financial and technical assistance to several countries. While half of AFD’s development aid goes to Africa, the agency has also been paying attention to Asia since early 2000, Pires said.
He added that AFD wants to work with Asean and ACMECS in several fields, notably physical connectivity for regional integration.
While Asean covers 10 countries in Southeast Asia, ACMECS is comprised of five Southeast Asian countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
Working with the two regional bodies simultaneously will help the French agency avoid the overlapping of cooperation terms and projects, Pires said.
“Thailand is putting a lot of effort in reactivating the ACMECS initiative, which is considered by the Thai government as a catalyst for regional development cooperation,” he said.
Thailand is the Asean chair this year.
AFD has been present in Thailand since 2004, focusing on two areas – combating climate change and protecting the environment – and working alongside the Foreign Ministry’s Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA) in terms of bilateral and trilateral assistance, he said.
AFD’s projects in Thailand include technical cooperation and workshops with the Finance Ministry and Phuket Municipality in relation to urban transport and seeking a credit facility with Kasikorn Bank for renewable energy.
Trilateral cooperation is where AFD and TICA pool their financial and other resources as well as their technical knowledge to complete certain projects, he said.
“We managed to do this for the first time a couple of months ago in Cambodia, where we co-financed and co-organised training for dengue entomologists in the country,” Pires told a group of Thai journalists last week at AFD headquarters in Paris.
“We are looking for other opportunities and would like to apply the modality of working together with TICA in other parts of the world, specifically Africa,” he said.
The AFD provided 11 billion euro (Bt395 billion) in financial and technical assistance to several countries last year, up from 10.4 billion euro in 2017. Through a network of 85 field offices, AFD currently finances, monitors and assists more than 2,500 development projects in 108 countries.
French President Emmanuel Macron has been giving importance to his country’s international role notably in Africa and Asia with the Official Development Assistance target to reach 45 per cent of GDP by 2022, Pires added.