Russian, Thai Premiers to discuss future of bilateral relations Thursday

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov of Russia and his Thai counterpart Thaksin Shinawatra will discuss on Thursday the future of trade, economic, scientific, technical and humanitarian relations between the two countries, the governmental information department disclosed.

The Russian government considers the official visit by the Prime Minister of the Thai Kingdom an extremely important event, especially because leaders of this country haven't visited Moscow since 1988.

According to RIA Novosti's sources in the Russian government, trade turnover between Russia and Thailand in 2000 was at the level of 456 million dollars, in 2001 - 410 million dollars. These figures account for only 0.4 percent of the Thai foreign trade turnover. The basic items of Russian exports to Thailand are metals and rolled metal (46 percent), fertilisers (14 percent) and aluminium goods.

Raw sugar is the key item of Thai imports to Russia (about 50 percent). There are about ten Russo-Thai joint venture companies in Thailand running ship maintenance, fertiliser import and tourist businesses.

The stance of the Russian side is that the two countries do not use their trade and economic potentials in full, which does not meet the two countries' economic capabilities. Moscow is ready to render all possible assistance to an effort of the two countries' business circles establishing direct contacts.

The Russian side is very interested in multilateral projects, such as the creation of the ASEAN energy and gas pipeline systems, the construction of a transcontinental railroad linking Europe and Asia and of an Asian motorway.

The focus of the talks is co-operation in the areas of science and technology. The sides are currently drafting a co-operation agreement in the area of space technologies.

Other domains of mutual interest are biotechnology and biomedicine. The agenda also includes the discussion of co-operation in the sphere of education which refers in particular to apprenticeship of Thai students in Russia. The sides are also very interested in developing tourism. About 50,000 Russian citizens visit Thailand every year.

The officials are also likely to touch on issues related to military and technical co-operation.

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