Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Media release

4 July 2008

Joint Statement: Foreign Ministers of Australia and Thailand

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, HE Mr Noppadon Pattama, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, the Hon Stephen Smith MP, met in Bangkok on 4 July 2008, during Mr Smith’s first visit to Thailand as Foreign Minister.

The Ministers noted the long history of friendship and close cooperation between Thailand and Australia. They stated their commitment to reinvigorating the bilateral relationship, following Thailand’s return to democracy earlier this year.

The Ministers underlined the fundamental importance of democracy, and of adherence to democratic principles and practices, as an essential foundation for good governance, lasting political stability and prosperity.

The Ministers agreed that the long-standing and close relationship between Thailand and Australia had evolved to a point where it was now a partnership, delivering major benefits to both countries and their peoples. Taking into account the wide-ranging areas of bilateral cooperation, the Ministers agreed to develop a Joint Action Plan to strengthen collaboration. They called for the Joint Action Plan to be endorsed at the first meeting of the Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation, at Foreign Minister level, expected to be held this year.

The Ministers welcomed as a remarkable achievement the fact that, since entry into force of the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) in January 2005, bilateral trade had expanded so that Thailand was now Australia’s eighth largest two-way trading partner. Ministers acknowledged the commitment made under TAFTA to commence negotiations on the Agreement’s in-built agenda, and the potential benefits of this for bilateral trade and investment.

The Ministers underlined the value of bilateral cooperation across many other areas including defence links, and fighting transnational crimes such as drug trafficking, people trafficking and people smuggling. The Ministers noted that Thailand and Australia also have strong cooperation on counter-terrorism activities including law enforcement, border control and transport security. To this end, Ministers have proposed measures under the 2002 bilateral MOU to further strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism matters.

The Ministers welcomed the strong links between the people of the two countries, characterised by increasing numbers of Australians choosing Thailand as their holiday destination (over 650,000 in 2007) and increasing numbers of Thais studying in Australia (around 19,000 enrolments in 2007) - the largest number of Thai students studying overseas anywhere in the world.

The Ministers also welcomed the expanding bilateral dialogue on new challenges - including with respect to the environment, climate change, energy and food security – and agreed to explore how Thailand and Australia might cooperate to address these challenges.

Mr Smith said Australia looked forward to working closely with Thailand when it assumed the ASEAN chairmanship later this month.

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