Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon,
I would like to welcome Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to the Maldives. It is the first official visit to the Maldives by a Thai Prime Minister since diplomatic relations were established 34 years ago. I would also like to welcome the members of the business delegation.
Thailand is one of the largest trading partners of the Maldives. Nearly 30 percent of our exports go to Thailand. And we would like to increase that number significantly in the coming years.
The visit has cemented a stronger bond of friendship between the Maldives and Thailand. Just a few minutes ago, the two countries signed seven agreements, including an agreement on trade and economic cooperation.
Trade is the backbone of the relationship between the two countries. This agreement would help to further increase trade and investment between the Maldives and Thailand. There is a mutual recognition of the need to create opportunities for trade and investment, such as easier travel arrangements, and more direct flights between the two countries.
I reiterated to the Prime Minister, our interest in concluding a visa waiver agreement between the two countries. I have also said to the Prime Minister our readiness to welcome increased Thai investments to the Maldives. Already, there are significant Thai investments in the tourism sector. We intend to double the size of Thai investments in the Maldives in the next five years, and I am confident that this visit would help in achieving that. We also discussed the need for expanding investment in other sectors, such as food processing, infrastructure development, construction, and health care. I was pleased to see the agreement signed between the ADK Hospital and the Thonburi Hospital. I would like to encourage more Maldivian companies to enter into similar understanding with foreign partners that would allow sharing of experience and expertise.
The Thai Exim-Bank was the major investor in the Hulhumale’ development project. The Bank’s role in the project would come to an end next year. We welcome Thai Exim-Bank’s investment in other large-scale infrastructure projects.
The Maldives and Thailand have a common perspective on several international issues. We are members of the UN Human Rights Council, and have forged a strong partnership on several issues of mutual concern.
Our two countries belong to two separate regional organisations. Thailand has played a pivotal role in the development and growth of ASEAN. The Maldives is currently the Chair of SAARC, and we discussed the importance of forging closer ties between the two regional organisations.
The Maldives and Thailand will continue to work closely in further expanding the trade and investment ties between the two countries. We would also continue to cooperate on issues of mutual concern at international arena. Your visit, Madam Prime Minister, would help to accelerate that cooperation.