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Thailand, China agree to boost trade, tourism

China and Thailand aim to boost annual trade nearly threefold to $50 billion by 2010 with tourism a major factor.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2005 12:36 IST

China and Thailand aim to boost annual trade nearly threefold to $50 billion by 2010 with tourism a major factor, Chinese Deputy Vice Premier Wu Yi said on Thursday.

She predicted up to 70,000 Chinese would visit Thailand this year, bolstering an industry hit hard by last December's Indian Ocean tsunami which killed 5,395 people in Thailand -- roughly half of them foreign.

"I believe the number of Chinese tourists travelling to Thailand will rise gradually and could reach 4 million by 2010. That would help Thailand's tourism industry recover," Wu Yi told reporters during bilateral trade talks.

Still reeling from the effects of the Dec. 26 tsunami and unrest in the largely Muslim Thai south, Thailand hopes to attract up to 13 million tourists this year, up from 11 million in 2004.

Tourism remains an industry critical to Thailand, comprising an estimated 6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) each year.

But the number of tourist arrivals was down 8 percent at 4.2 million in the first five months of 2005 from the same period last year, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

Thailand and China agreed to increase the number of flights between both countries and make getting visas easier, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said.

Apart from three memoranda of understanding (MOUs) on tourism, the two countries also agreed trade and investment issues, such as using barter in agricultural trade, Somkid added.

Thailand had aimed to seal at least one barter trade deal with China -- the exchange of locomotives for Thai rice -- but the negotiations have been prolonged.

"We have agreed in principle and the negotiation takes time since it involves several barter trade deals. But I think a few projects will be sealed by the end of this year," Somkid said.

China ranks as Thailand's third largest trade partner after Japan and the United States, with two-way trade valued at $17.3 billion in 2004.

That number is expected to rise to more than $20 billion in 2005, according to the latest figures provided by the Thai government.

First Published: Sep 27, 2005 12:36 IST