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President Chen Meets with a Group of Thai Senators

Taipei, June 12 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian said Tuesday he is hopeful that the suspended annual economic consultative meeting between the Republic of China and Thailand can be resumed as early as possible to further boost bilateral trade and cooperation. 

Chen made the pitch while meeting with a group of Thai senators, who are currently on a goodwill visit to Taipei. 

Chen told his guests that despite the absence of diplomatic ties, substantive ROC-Thai relations have been close and cordial. For instance, he said, about 150,000 Thai nationals are legally working in Taiwan, accounting for 50 percent of total overseas Thai workers and making Thailand Taiwan's No. 1 source of foreign laborers. 

As of the end of last year, Chen said, direct Taiwan investment in Thailand had reached US$10.33 billion, making the ROC the third largest foreign investor in the Southeast Asian country. 

In addition, Chen said, two-way trade amounted to US$5.3 billion last year, with Thailand posting a trade surplus of about US$200 million. Moreover, ROC nationals made 650,000 visits to Thailand in 2000. "All these figures point to the cordiality of our relationship," Chen said, adding that in view of brisk bilateral trade, the two countries should resume regular ministerial-level trade and economic consultative conference, which has been suspended since 1991. 

Chen went on to say that the ROC government has consistently encourage its entrepreneurs to invest in Southeast Asian countries, particularly members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). So far, he said, Taiwan business people have poured more than US$40 billion into the region. "Against this backdrop, we hope Thailand can support our bid to take part in ASEAN activities and forge a regular dialogue mechanism with this important regional organization," Chen said, adding that the ROC also needs Thailand's support for its bids to join the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization and other major international bodies. 

Chen further said he looks forward to seeing senior ROC and Thai officials exchange visits more frequently for mutual benefits. 

Meanwhile, Chen lauded Thai workers for their diligence and contribution to Taiwan's infrastructure construction and economic development. "I hope labor officials from both countries can jointly work out measures to cut brokerage fees for Thai nationals intending to work in Taiwan," the president added.

For their part, the visiting Thai senators said the ROC has played an important role in the international community and Southeast Asian region. "We'll be very pleased to see the ROC take part in ASEAN activities as an observer," said Wiboon Shamsheun, the first vice chairman of the Thai Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

Shamsheun told President Chen that he and his colleagues also support the upgrading of official exchanges between the two countries. 

In addition to booming commercial exchanges, Shamsheun said ROC and Thai peoples also have close blood ties. "We appreciate the huge Taiwan investment in Thailand to help spur our economic development and we are also grateful that the ROC government has allowed our people to work in Taiwan," he added. 

Other members of the Thai delegation included Wittaya Masayna, vice chairman of the Thai Senate Science, Technology and Energy Committee, and Wichai Krongyuth, spokesman for the Thai Senate Education and Culture Committee. 




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