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Thai-US ties 'will not change'

Oct 22. 2012
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By The Nation

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US envoy Kristie Kenney tells Nation Multimedia Group that relations between two nations will be the same whatever the election's outcome

Thai-US relations will stay very much the same whether President Barack Obama wins a second term or former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney becomes the 45th US president, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney told Nation Multimedia Group yesterday.

Democrat Obama and Repub-lican Romney are equally strong candidates competing in a very tight race, so for Americans to decide on November 6 whom to vote for, this third round of the US presidential election debate today is crucial, she said to Thepchai Yong, group executive editor of NMG, in a television interview broadcast on Nation Channel and Krungthep Turakij TV last night.
Kenney stressed the importance of Thai-US diplomatic relations, which would turn 180 years old next year. The United States and Thailand are treaty allies, friends and strong trade, security and cultural partners. Business profits between them reached US$35 billion (Bt1.075 trillion) last year and could be further boosted. 
Obama and Romney share similar qualities that could attract voters, she noted. Both are Harvard Law School graduates, are highly qualified and present outstanding foreign policies on the US presence in the world community. They are both pro-trade. Although Obama has an advantage from running the country for four years, Romney can make up for this by beating Obama in the debate, by simply telling the country how much better he could perform or would deal with problems.
Foreign policy will be focus of the third debate at Lynn University in Florida, and Kenney thinks that US foreign policy, whoever the next president is, will not change much towards China. Despite Romney’s tough stance towards that country as expressed in his strongly worded statements, Kenney said strong statements during an election were not always translated into action.
An elected president is not alone in running the US government. He represents the executive branch, but has to deal with the legislative and the judicial branches, she said. And for voters to decide on the foreign policy of both candidates, the third debate is important.
Foreign policy nowadays matters to American voters because of two key factors – today’s world communities were much closer than 10 years ago, when relations and trade in separate locations did not affect each other, and the US electorate now is different, the ambassador said.
Nearly 20 per cent of voters are Hispanic, who naturally favour Democrat candidates including Obama, while 7 per cent are Asian, who favour no one in particular, and that is why the third debate will be decisive for them, she said. 
Undecided voters are always crucial for a candidate to taste victory and the final three weeks, from the third debate to election day, will be critical. Female voters are also essential and candidates who do well in all three debates usually draw votes from them.
Utilising the third debate, both candidates can recoup their disadvantage in swing states, where voters are still undecided, she said, while excusing herself from predicting or commenting on many aspects that would be answered after the third debate.
As for Myanmar’s possible role in the annual Cobra Gold military exercise in Thailand this year, Kenney said it was a positive move, which was discussed among event partners, and an invite would be submitted by the Thai government, awaiting a reply from Myanmar authorities.
Kenney, who was nominated by Obama in July 2010 to head the Thailand mission and confirmed by the Senate in September that year, said she had not decided whom to vote for and would be proud to serve under either US president.
Before the interview ended, she threw the question back to Thepchai: Whom would he vote for if he were an American? Thepchai said he would choose “someone he is familiar with”. Kenney told Thepchai, “This time you are familiar with both candidates, and that’s a good diplomatic answer,” before both shared a good laugh.

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