Visiting Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang yesterday cemented his country’s long-term partnership with Thailand with a number of proposals and pacts for cooperation, and received Bangkok’s full support to set up a clearing house for the use of the yuan.
Li began his three-day official trip yesterday with a visit to Parliament and later held a meeting with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
During bilateral discussions, Yingluck and Li exchanged views on a wide range of issues, including a plan to boost trade of farm products such as rubber, palm oil and rice. China has accepted Thailand’s invitation to invest in agricultural-product processing in Thailand, Yingluck said.
The Thai government also supported a Chinese proposal to set up a special bank for infrastructure development to finance physical connectivity in the region, and have a clearing house in Thailand for use of the yuan to avoid exchange rate risks, she said.
The central banks of the two countries would work on these issues in detail later, she told a press briefing after the meeting.
To enhance people-to-people ties and tourism, China would consider a Thai proposal to waiver visas for Thais visiting China, she said.
Li said the visa waiver would boost tourism between the two countries. Chinese tourists to Thailand could increase up to 5 million this year, he noted.
In Parliament, the Chinese premier met Parliament President Somsak Kiatsuranont and Senate Speaker Nikom Wiratpanij. A number of diplomatic representatives, Chinese officials and representatives from a Chinese-Thai association also attended the special sessions.
Prior to Li’s arrival, Parliament was considering a memorandum of understanding on trans-border transportation to facilitate cross-border trade and tourism between Thailand, Laos and China. The pact was intentionally considered in the session coinciding with Li’s visit, to mark the relations and facilitate regional transport connectivity, said Somsak.
“As the two premiers [Thai and Chinese] would sign an MoU on transportation, may I propose that Premier Li consider upgrading Road No 3 [R3] in Laos to a four-lane highway for smooth connection between China, Laos and Thailand,” he said.
In a rare address to the Thai Parliament, the Chinese premier said he had many plans to enhance relations between China and Thailand in all aspects, including economic and people-to-people ties.
China will boost two-way trade with Thailand to US$100 billion by 2015 and will buy more Thai farm products, notably rubber in the next five years, he said.
“We know rubber is an important product for Thailand. We have a plan to buy more and will have a mechanism for this item in particular,” he said.
To do so, China proposed to have a special bank to use “our local currency” for financial transactions and trade, he said.
On connectivity, China proposed that Thailand consider its high-speed-train technology. “This project would not only lift the living standards of Thai people but also of all Asean people,” he said. Li will attend an exhibition on high-speed-trains at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre today.
Lin remarked on the great love Thai people have for the panda Lin Ping. “Some Thais even paid for a trip to China to accompany Lin Ping home. I’m glad to hear how Thai people love her. I promise that Lin Ping will return to Thailand soon, when she has found a mate,” he said, drawing big applause from MPs.
At Government House, officials signed a number of memorandums of understanding for cooperation on energy, education, science and investment.
One of the MoUs provides for Thailand to partly pay for Chinese investment in infrastructure through farm products such as rice and rubber.
Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt signed with his Chinese counterpart an MoU that may allow Thailand to repay China part of the construction cost of the high-speed-rail project with farm products.