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  Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told Hong Kong business leaders that Thailand regards investor

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva tells Hong Kong business leaders that Thailand regards investors as the true drivers of the economy

Trade and investment were key agendas of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's first official visit to Hong Kong since taking office five months ago.

"I'm here to reaffirm our partnership and and commitments in trade, investment and all kinds of cooperation, and in the strong relationship we have always enjoyed," the Prime Minister told the business leaders attending a luncheon hosted by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), 15 May. "My every intention is to make sure that Thailand is back in business, and I'm here to reaffirm that."

The one-day visit was also the Prime Minister's first overseas trip since the political unrest in Thailand last month.

"The last four months have not been easy for Thailand," Mr Abhisit said. "Despite the political difficulties, all the plans that we have set out as far as the recovery and the stimulus package are concerned are on track and on time. "

Investing in Recovery

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (left), with HKTDC Executive Director Fred Lam, at an HKTDC bu  

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (left), with HKTDC Executive
Director Fred Lam, at an HKTDC business luncheon in honour of the Thai leader


As an open economy, Thailand has not been spared from the global economic downturn. Mr Abhisit predicted that Thailand's exports will show a contraction of about 20 per cent in the first quarter. But he said that an initial US$3 billion stimulus package, focusing on health, water and education has been implemented to prop up domestic demand. A second mid-year stimulus package, worth US$45 billion over the next three years, will restructure the country's economy by upgrading its infrastructure, as well as its agricultural and services industries. The Prime Minister stressed that Thailand's economic fundamentals are stable, with ample liquidity in its financial institutions.

As chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, the Thai Prime Minister said that ASEAN is committed to its liberalisation programme and that "protectionism is not the way to resolve the current global economic crisis."

It was a point, Mr Abhisit said, that he was able to make at the recent G20 Summit. Mr Abhisit added that during the London meeting there was "recognition that Asia is expected to lead the global economy out of the crisis."

The Prime Minister stressed that Thailand continues to offer a wealth of opportunities for overseas investment, pledging that government policies will remain responsive to market conditions and business friendly.

Thailand is Hong Kong's seventh-largest trading partner in Asia, with trade last year totalling US$12.2 billion, an increase of 10.6 per cent over the previous year. For the past three years, Hong Kong has been Thailand's sixth-largest trading partner, with an average annual growth rate of 18 per cent.

Two-way Gateway

Hong Kong investments in Thailand last year totalled US$145 million, and the Prime Minister stressed the complementary ties between the two economies. "Thailand can serve as a gateway to Southeast Asia, while Hong Kong is a gateway to China, especially the Pearl River Delta region."

HKTDC Executive Director Fred Lam hailed the close trade ties Hong Kong has enjoyed with Thailand over the years. "Mr Abhisit's presence here with us today speaks volumes of the longstanding bond between our two peoples and the importance that the Prime Minister attaches to the bilateral ties between our two economies."

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