Thailand, Iran economies can be ‘complementary’

TEHRAN, Aug. 21 (MNA) – Thai ambassador believes Thailand and Iran economies are complementary and names the cultural transaction and respect for internal affairs of any country as the ultimate goals of Bangkok.

Mr. Rasmee Chittham Thai ambassador to Tehran discussed a host of issues with Maryam Khormaei of Mehr News including Thailand – Iran cooperation in the post nuclear era as well as the role of a democracy-based diplomacy to enhance closer cooperation.

Chittham thinks of the people to people contact as a form of soft diplomacy laying the basis for broader relations with different states.

In which areas do the two countries of Iran and Thailand tend to develop cooperation in the post-JCPOA era?

Thailand and Iran are very close friends. Our historical ties date back more than 400 years. Last year, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. Thai government wishes to deepen and broaden cooperation in all areas with Iran especially in the field of trade, investment, energy, culture and tourism.    

Recently, the Thai Deputy PM visited Iran in early February. Even before his visit to Iran, the Thai FM came here to attend 9th JC meeting. Since the Iranian nuclear talks have been successfully concluded in JCPOA, the country is now open to the world again. So, why don’t we expect Thailand to engage more activities with Iran? Thailand has sent the high level delegations to visit and discuss about how we can promote closer cooperation in order to widen and deepen the bilateral revelation in every area as the two countries have potential to do so.

As Thailand is the regional hub and second largest economy in ASEAN, Iran can take advantage of Thailand as a gateway in expanding its trade to ASEAN.

Thailand is also aware of the investment opportunities in Iran, especially in the areas of manufacturing, urban and infrastructure development.

Recently, several Thai companies as well as the embassy participated in the Iran Food and Hospitality Fair 2016. We hope to promote food and agricultural products particularly Halal Thai food products to the Iranian market.  

As Iran is well –endowed with oil and natural gas, Thailand sees great potential in developing cooperation with Iran in the energy and its related fields such as petrochemicals.

What position does Iran hold to Thailand with regard to energy market?

As you know we need to import oil and gas because we are not an oil producer country by ourselves. That is why Thailand relies on importing energy products from the Middle East countries. So, Iran is another option for us. We have to share the Market to balance. Thailand does not want to only rely on the resources of one or two countries. Since we have a very good relations with Iran, we seek to explore the possibilities to import from Iran.

Thailand recognizes the great potentials of Iran in the energy sector. Iran has the fourth largest oil reserves and the largest natural gas reserves in the world.

We are ready to resume energy cooperation with Iran. Such cooperation can include oil and gas exploration and production as well as trading in oil and related products.

The Thai government is also interested in investing in Iranian petrochemical sectors. Currently, there is a joint venture investment of SCG, a Thai Company, in the petrochemical industry in Asaluyeh, Iran.

Both countries need to exchange delegations to discuss how we can interact in doing this business for mutual benefits.

Except for energy market, in which areas do the two countries can cooperate with each other?

Tourism is another key area of cooperation which will be beneficial to both countries. Thailand and Iran can work together to promote two-way tourism, especially with the opening of the direct flight between Bangkok – Tehran by Thai Air Asia Airlines on 22 June. We also look forward to the opening of the direct flight of Thai Airways in October. This will surely enhance greater people to people relations between two countries.

Even in food industry which Thailand is good at, we don’t want to compete with Iran but to cooperate.  Logistically, Thailand is a center for AEC (ASEAN Economic Community). AS for Iran, the country is also located in a very good position. Chabahar port, a free trade-industrial zone can be a transit center of goods in transit being sent to neighboring countries of Iran such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian. Our economies can be complemented with each other.

We also discussed the possibility for investment in hotel industry in Iran, during the visit of Thai DPM, because your country needs at least twenty new hotels every year. However, at present, no Thai companies come to invest in this industry. But I will encourage them.

Furthermore, both countries can promote people to people contacts. A people center policy including cultural cooperation and exchanges are one of my priority. These would enhance closer cooperation between our two countries.

Currently, Iran owns only a 99 million dollar share of Thailand's 200 billion dollars market which stands just for less than 0.5 percent of the amount. So, what might be the new areas of activity of Iranian businessmen in Thailand? Will Bangkok have any special plans to absorb more Iranian investment?

Thailand welcomes Iranian investment, particularly in the areas which Iran is very progressive i.e. science and technology, pharmaceutical and nanotechnology and others. 

In 2015, trade balance between Thailand and Iran was around 357 million dollars, with Thailand having a trade surplus of 287 million dollars.

The Thai government would like to encourage greater trade balance with Iran through the exchanges of trade delegations, participation in trade fairs and organization of trade roadshows and exhibitions between the two countries. Thailand is also looking into the possibility of establishing distribution center at the free and special economic zones in Iran.

Furthermore, during the visit of Mr. Somkid Jatusripitak, Deputy PM of Thailand, on 1-4 February 2016, a trade agreement was signed aiming to increase to value of trade between two countries to 3 billion US dollars by year 2021.

Thailand is also interested to promote joint venture investment in Iran, particularly in manufacturing of goods, food processing, fishery.

Interview by: Maryam Khormaei

News Code 119100

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