Thailand offers to be Saudi Arabia’s ‘gateway’ to Asian markets

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BANGKOK: Following Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s arrival in Bangkok as a special guest of the Thai government, a top trade negotiations official said on Friday that Thailand wants to be Saudi Arabia’s “gateway” to Asian markets.

The Saudi leader’s one-day visit to Thailand marks a watershed moment in Riyadh-Bangkok relations, which stalled in the 1980s and were only recently restored when Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited Saudi Arabia at the crown prince’s invitation.

Many agreements and official exchanges have occurred since then. The volume of trade between the two countries has increased significantly, and more is on the way, as regaining access to Saudi Arabia has long been a priority for Thailand.

“The value of trade, the growth, has been around 50 percent plus since the normalization of the diplomatic relationship in January,” Auramon Supthaweethum, director general of the Department of Trade Negotiations, told Arab News at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok.

Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce’s trade department is crucial in organizing the country’s trade talks with Saudi Arabia. Thai officials also hope that they will allow for a greater presence in the Middle East.

“Saudi Arabia can be a gateway to the entire Middle East for Thailand,” Supthaweethum said, adding that Thailand could do the same through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The newly restored relations have been boosted by the crown prince’s visit, which coincided with the APEC summit, during which he held a series of meetings with the heads of state from the Pacific Rim’s 21 economies.

“I think it’s very positive.” “The Saudi prime minister and crown prince are visiting Thailand at this critical time,” Supthaweethum said. He added that there was also the possibility of private sector engagement because the Saudi delegation included many business representatives.

With the relationship restored, Thai exporters and investors now have greater access to opportunities in the Gulf and beyond.

“This is a huge issue for Thailand.” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Bangkok-based Institute of Security and International Studies, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia is a critical partner in the Middle East.

“It’s a way for Thailand to re-enter Middle Eastern markets.” Many doors would have been closed if the Saudi Arabia relationship had not existed. More doors will now be opened.”

Source: Thailand News

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