Thailand, Saudi Arabia to launch coordination council amid relations thaw

BANGKOK: Thailand is preparing to set up a coordination council with Saudi Arabia to boost newly restored relations, including in trade and investment, a top official from the Thai Ministry of Commerce said on Friday.

Ties between the two kingdoms stalled in the 1980s and were renewed in late January, following Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s visit to Riyadh, which was the first top leadership meeting between the two countries in more than three decades.

During the visit, the Kingdom and Thailand discussed a road map for their bilateral relations.

The Southeast Asian nation’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai said last month that the road map would be made official during a visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The crown prince has been invited as a special guest by the Thai leadership to attend the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok on Nov. 18-19.

The coordination council to implement the relationship road map is expected to be established during the visit, Umaporn Futrakul, director of the Bureau of Asia, Africa and Middle East of the Department of Trade Negotiations at the Thai Ministry of Commerce, told Arab News.

“When the crown prince visits, there will be an announcement on the details of the coordination council,” she said.

“The coordination council will consist of committees, and one of those will be trade and economy which, it has been agreed, the ministries of commerce from both sides will co-chair.”

Since the restoration of bilateral ties, many agreements and official visits have already followed. The two governments have also signed a series of cooperation deals and the volume of trade between them has already significantly increased.

Between February and September 2022, bilateral trade volume between Thailand and Saudi Arabia reached $7.2 billion, compared with $4.5 billion in the same period last year, according to Ministry of Commerce data.

In the same timeframe, Thai exports to Saudi Arabia were $1.3 billion, up 23 percent, while imports were $5.9 billion, posting an increase of more than 72 percent.

“The resumption of ties has made the relationship better in the big picture,” Futrakul said.

“After the two sides started their interaction and resumed their ties in different dimensions, it led to more visits from top executives from both sides than before … these frequent visits lead to more trade and investment.”

The top Thai exports to Saudi Arabia in 2022 were automobiles, spare parts, accessories, as well as wood products, household appliances, electric devices and processed seafood.

The key imports from Saudi Arabia were crude oil, fertilizers, natural gas and metal products.

A further boost in trade is expected soon as the cooperation council will come with frameworks to advance economic relations on both ends.

“A mechanism will be established as a basis for discussing the ways of promoting trade and investment,” Futrakul said. “Having a platform will make a lot of things happen.”

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