Thailand to seek closer cooperation with U.S. as ASEAN chair

When Thailand leads, it remembers old friends. Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said last week that the Kingdom will spearhead efforts to forge closer cooperation with the United States and some other Western nations when it becomes chair country of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations next year.

Somkid, who oversees the government’s economic ministries and who plays a major role in charting Thailand’s course of development, told the Bangkok Post in an interview that he has assigned relevant agencies to formulate detailed plans to strengthen bonds with several Western countries including the United States.

Chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) rotates among its members with each holding a one-year term. Thailand was one of the original five founding members of the regional bloc in 1967. The group has doubled in size and is now home to about 651 million people with a total gross domestic product of $3 trillion.

Aside from the United States, Somkid said he wants ASEAN to deepen relationships with England, France, and Russia. He said the spotlight would be on Thailand to expand the scope and influence of the organization when it assumes the chairmanship.

With its mix of advanced, middle income, and developing economies ASEAN offers an extremely large and diverse market. Its strategic location along major shipping routes along with extensive infrastructure and connectivity make it a region that can no longer be ignored despite its considerable distance from the United States and Europe.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that as chair country Thailand wants to drive significant achievements during its term, adding that the grouping must create actionable blueprints to ensure a prosperous and sustainable future.

“Next year, the concept is sustainability. All ministries have been informed so that they can contribute as much as possible to future meetings between the members,” Somkid said.

Following several consecutive years of solid economic growth, Thailand has re-established itself as one of the foundational economies in the group, and Somkid expects growth to accelerate in coming years with the rise of its Eastern Economic Corridor advanced development zone and the realization of the Thailand 4.0 national strategy.

Thailand is also a key member of the sub-grouping known as the CLMVT countries that as a group has posted 6 to 8 percent growth over the last decade, one of the highest in the world. The CLMVT countries are Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Viet Nam, and Thailand.