H.E. Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand, visited the Kingdom of Belgium and the European Union during 5-6 March 2013 upon the invitation of H.E. Mr. Elio Di Rupo, Prime Minister of Belgium, and Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. The purpose of the visit was to further strengthen relations and elevate bilateral relations to a higher and more comprehensive level, including politics, economics, trade and investment, and tourism.
On 5 March, HRH Crown Prince Philippe of Belgium granted the Prime Minister an audience at the Royal Palace, followed by meetings with Prime Minister Di Rupo and Mr. André Flahaut, President of the Chamber of Representatives of Belgium. Later that evening, Ms. Sabine de Bethune, President of the Senate of Belgium, hosted a dinner in honour of the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister also presided over a Business Networking Reception and Luncheon organized by the Board of Investment of Thailand on 5 March. During this visit, the Prime Minister was accompanied by more than 30 top Thai businessmen who met with 115 leading executives from 92 companies/organizations in Belgium and Europe during the reception and luncheon. The Thai businessmen also attended a seminar on the opportunities and challenges of the Thai-EU FTA, how to do business in Belgium and Europe, networking and lobbying in Europe, as well as visited leading companies and research facilities on 6 March.
This timely visit by the Prime Minister paved the way for a subsequent Royal Visit by HRH Crown Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde to Thailand during 16-22 March 2013. HRH Crown Prince Philippe led an economic mission of over 200 Belgian business CEOs to Thailand. These exchange of visits will further promote the already close bilateral relations between the two countries.
On 6 March, the Prime Minister met with the three leaders the European Union’s institutions, namely, Mr. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, Mr. Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council. The highlights of their discussions were the announcement of the launching of the FTA negotiations between Thailand and the European Union, and the successful conclusion of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) negotiations, both of which will serve as an important foundation in advancing relations between Thailand and the European Union from strength to strength.
Following the lunch hosted by Mr. Barroso, the Prime Minister was given a Geographical Indicator (GI) certificate for Thailand’s famous rice Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Ronghai, which was the first ever product from Southeast Asia to receive a “Geographical Indication” status in the EU. The Prime Minister also reiterated Thailand’s efforts to register two more Thai products, namely, Doi Chang Coffee and Doi Tung Coffee for GI Certificates. The European Union is Thailand’s fourth largest trading partner with a total trade volume of more than 32 billion Euros in 2012 and the fourth largest investor in Thailand with a net investment of 740 million Euros in 2012.