Joint Ministerial Statement
Australia-Thailand Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation
Perth, 8 May 2009
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, HE Mr Kasit Piromya, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, the Hon Stephen Smith MP, met in Perth on 8 May 2009 to hold the inaugural Australia-Thailand Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation.
The Ministers affirmed the longstanding and productive friendship between Thailand and Australia. The Ministers noted that this friendship was underpinned by growing people-to-people links with over 22,000 Thai students now enrolled to study in Australia and some 700,000 Australians visiting Thailand last year.
The Ministers reviewed the deep and broad bilateral connections between Thailand and Australia. They noted the close cooperation across a range of areas of mutual interest, including trade and investment, law enforcement including international crime cooperation matters, counter-terrorism, education, security, migration and tourism. The Ministers welcomed in particular growing energy and education cooperation between Australia and Thailand and agreed to step up joint collaboration in research. They underlined their commitment to continue to strengthen this cooperation under the framework of the Agreement on Bilateral Cooperation.
Mr Kasit said that Thailand was ready to advance bilateral cooperation in all areas as soon as possible. Mr Kasit noted the recent visit to Australia by Thai Industry Minister Chanchai Chairungruang in conjunction with the opening of a Thai Board of Investment office in Sydney and Thailand's promotion of 2008-2009 as 'Thailand Investment Year'.
The Ministers discussed mutual efforts by both Australia and Thailand to combat people smuggling and trafficking. The Ministers noted the success of the 14-15 April Bali Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime and called for continued regional cooperation to combat these serious crimes. The Ministers noted that the Ad Hoc Group mechanism agreed to at the Ministerial Conference would address coordinated regional responses to specific irregular migration challenges in the region.
The Ministers welcomed the strong bilateral defence cooperation between Australia and Thailand. They also agreed that senior officials from both sides would meet in the coming year to hold a bilateral Regional Security Dialogue.
The Ministers discussed the situation in southern Thailand. The Thai side welcomed the Australian offer to provide $A1 million for teacher training in English, science and mathematics for teachers from the south of Thailand.
The Ministers noted the already strong trade relationship between Thailand and Australia, with Thailand now Australia's eighth largest two-way trading partner. The Ministers recognised the benefits to both economies of the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement and agreed that further negotiations under TAFTA's in-built agenda should proceed expeditiously. Similarly, they welcomed the recent signing of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement and the stimulus it will provide to bilateral and regional economic integration.
The Ministers were pleased to announce the expansion of the reciprocal Work and Holiday visa arrangement by increasing the cap from 200 to 500 visas per year. The increase will further develop links between young people in both countries and promote cultural exchange and mutual understanding.
The Ministers noted the successful air services negotiations in 2008 had resulted in further liberalisation of air services arrangements and provided significant opportunities for airlines of both countries to develop new services and markets.
The Ministers discussed regional developments, including Thailand's role as Chair of ASEAN. Both Ministers expressed their hope that a rescheduled East Asia Summit would be convened soon to facilitate, in particular, regional discussions on the impact of the global economic recession, and regional financial integration. The Ministers underlined the importance of security arrangements for the reconvened Summit.
The Ministers also discussed Thailand's recent political situation. Mr Kasit said that following the lifting of the State of Emergency in Bangkok on 24 April the situation had now returned to normal. Mr Kasit reaffirmed that the priority for the Royal Thai Government under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was to restore social harmony and to move the country forward with good governance, transparency, and accountability.
Mr Smith said that, as a longstanding friend of Thailand, Australia encouraged Thailand to continue to adhere to peaceful and democratic means to resolve any differences. Mr Smith registered that this was important both for Thailand and for the wider region.
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