Seeking more cooperation

THAI Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva on a day-long official visit here - his first as Prime Minister - pledged to step up cooperation with Singapore and assured leading bankers and businessmen that Thailand would continue to welcome foreign investment.

Speaking to The Straits Times after lunch at the Istana with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and senior Cabinet members, Mr Abhisit said: 'I had a very good meeting with PM Lee; despite the (economic) downturn we are determined to step up cooperation on all fronts.'

Singapore's hosting of a Singapore-Thailand Enhanced Economic Relationship meeting later this year would be an opportunity to 'review the impact of the crisis on trade and investment flows and explore new opportunities as we move forward', he said.

'We also had good discussions on the need for Asean to continue to make progress under the new Charter, with the goal of achieving a community and making sure we retain that momentum,' he added.

At the lunch which followed a ceremonial welcome at the Istana, Mr Abhisit - who also paid courtesy calls on President S R Nathan and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew - said: 'I have never failed to be impressed by Singapore's development and adherence to the values of hard work, discipline and perseverance...and your responses to the challenges of our times.'

He cited the close and dynamic ties between Singapore and Thailand and said he would reaffirm to prominent business leaders later in the evening that 'Thailand remains the land of hospitality and investment opportunities'.

Prime Minister Lee, for his part, noted that the bilateral partnership continued to broaden and deepen. Bilateral trade had grown steadily to about $35 billion last year, and trade and investments would continue to be expanded, he said.

'Defence relations are longstanding and substantial,' he said, citing Thailand's assistance in patrolling the Malacca Strait.

Mr Lee also pledged Singapore's cooperation in strengthening Asean, saying: 'We must focus our energies in the coming months to ensure a productive meeting at the Asean Summit (in Thailand) in October.

The two leaders also exchanged views on regional and international developments in a meeting before the lunch, according to a statement from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It said both agreed to forge a closer partnership to tackle emerging challenges confronting the region.

Read the full report in Tuesday's edition of the Straits Times

See World Page A8


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