PM’s US visit expected to boost relations

The US administration under President Donald Trump is moving to enhance relations with Thailand, after setbacks following the coup in Thailand three years ago.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday was invited to the Independence Day celebrations next week by the US Embassy, a rare invite to an unelected Thai ruler.

The invitation card was directly handed to Prayut by US Ambassador Glyn Davies when he brought representatives from the US-Asean Business Council (USABC) to meet the Thai premier at Government House, Deputy Government Spokesperson Lt-General Weerachon Sukondhapatipak said.

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Prayut, however, did not immediately accept the invitation. It would need to go through Government House and the requisite protocol, Werachon added. Bilateral ties have improved since Trump took office early this year, as Washington lowered its demands on democracy and human rights practices. Relations warmed up recently when Trump made a phone call to Prayut and invited him to visit Washington.

Officials in Bangkok and Washington are now preparing the schedule and programme for the visit, most likely in late in July, a source said.

The USABC would like to host a dinner banquet for Prime Minister Prayut when he is there, Weerachon said.

In a meeting with representatives from the USABC at Government House yesterday, Prayut said Thailand had great potential to cooperate with the US in all aspects. The premier hoped that the American business community would acknowledge and understand his government’s intention to reform the country, Weerachon said.

Prayut briefed them about his Thailand 4.0 policy to restructure the economy based on technology and innovation. US investors could participate in the Eastern Economic Corridor project, notably in 10 industrial sectors that the US is keen on, including the automobile, aviation, medical and digital-based industries, he said.

Prior to the meeting with Prayut, the USABC members met with Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn who said American investors were interested in many infrastructure projects such as airports and the high-speed train. They were confident in Thailand’s potential as a regional trading hub for Asean.

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The USABC president and CEO Alecander Feldmen said that among the areas of interest for discussion would be Thailand’s trade surplus with the US, intellectual rights and customs management. “Trump is opening new angles, opening up opportunities to work with the Prayut government,” Feldman told reporters.

This was in line with Trump’s earlier executive order to scrutinise the US trade relations with Thailand and 15 other countries, with whom the US has been having a trade deficit.

“One of the key reasons is that Asean is the fourth largest export market to the US and Thailand is the second largest economy in the region,” the USABC president said. “Investment and export growth have to be hand in hand,” he said. While stressing that the US business sector has maintained healthy relations with the Thai military-installed government, with the USABC itself having met Prayut on several occasions, they said an elected government would be seen as having transparency.


Source: The Nation