Thailand is aiming to increase its bilateral trade with India to $16 billion by 2014 and is looking at the North Eastern region as a major hub for investment.
"Over the last 15 years bilateral trade between Thailand and India grew substantially reaching USD 8.2 billion in 2011 and expanded to USD 8.6 billion in 2012.
"It is expected that this upward trend would be able to reach about USD 16 billion by 2014," permanent representative of Thailand in the Prime Minister's Office Nalinee Taveesin said.
She was speaking at a dinner meeting organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce here on Sunday evening.
She said the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement has created lot of opportunities for both sides to increase their bilateral trade and said her country is keen to increase its engagement with the North Eastern region.
"The governments of Thailand and India have the shared vision to bring the people of the two countries even more close. Under the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) framework, Thailand's 'Look West' policy meets with and perfectly complements India's 'Look East' policy and that's why Myanmar holds such crucial role as it shares borders with both Thailand and India.
"On a macro-economic front, Thailand, Myanmar and India have long enjoyed a close trade and investment relation and there has been close cultural ties since the 13th century (with the North Eastern region of India)," she said.
Taveesin said closer ties between India, Myanmar and Thailand will also help to strengthen trade and investment ties among all the member states of BIMSTEC and ASEAN and "deliver greater benefits to the whole business community in South East Asia and South Asia".
Taveesin said efforts to increase connectivity between India and ASEAN region is a win-win situation for both sides. "In terms of investment, Thailand ranks 36th among the largest investors in India with a cumulative FDI outflow of USD 94.8 million or about 0.06% of India's total FDI, it is mostly in machinery, feed and livestock products and construction.
"India has invested almost USD 460.2 million in Thailand mostly in chemical, paper, metal products, light industries, plastic products, auto and auto components," she said.
Regarding her government's efforts to increase trade ties with the North Eastern states, Taveesin said that "there is an wide open door for closer cooperation in numerous fields such as agriculture, forestry, mining, energy, hydro-power and eco-tourism."
She said: "North East India has been regarded by members of the business community in Thailand as a very important and attractive market and as a promising and welcoming investment destination.
"And combining these trends of North East India with Thailand, this powerful cooperation will certainly form a potential sub-regional hub with a gigantic market place full of opportunities with possibilities for investors, traders and people from India, Myanmar and Thailand."
Regarding her meeting with Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi earlier in the day, Taveesin termed it as "very promising."
"I am sure that a lot of things would follow up from here. I was very much impressed when we travelled through Guwahati just now. I was surprised to see that the place is quite advanced and there is lot of good infrastructure. The city is quite impressive...
"That lays good ground for confidence building and for things to move forward. I believe that we will be able to make something happen in the near future (regarding ties between South East Asia and the North Eastern states)," she said.
Taveesin said that North East's recognition as a bio -diversity hot spot of the global map holds immense potential in sectors like forestry, hydro-power and eco-tourism.
"An investor will find the large numbers of skilled labourers in NE India an asset to include in their overseas network and facilities," she said.
She added that the government of Thailand is focusing on promoting investment in the Small and medium enterprises (SME) sector.
"On the one hand, North East India holds many growth opportunities for Thai SMEs and large companies alike as an investment destination. On the other hand, with a population of 39 million, North East India is another untapped high-potential market," Taveesin said.
Speaking on the occasion, Assam agriculture and food processing minister Nilamoni Sen Deka said the state achieved an economic growth of 6.5% last year and is targeting 7.5% annual growth this fiscal.
"By end of the 12th Five Year Plan, we are aiming for 10% annual growth," he told reporters on the occasion.
Highlighting the predominance of the agriculture sector in Assam's economy, Deka called for greater cooperation and exchange of technical know-how between Thailand and North Eastern states in sectors like horticulture and food processing. He said the Assam Agriculture University is exploring options for tie-ups with institutes in Thailand.