Chirac tells Thai prime minister he wants more trade between their countries

French President Jacques Chirac told the Thai prime minister that he wanted to increase trade between their countries, and called Thailand a strategic country in Asia.

Chirac met for an hour and fifteen minutes Monday with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is also one of his country's wealthiest businessmen.

Trade between France and Thailand rose by 11 percent in 2004, and was up 32 percent in the first half of 2005, French presidential spokesman Jerome Bonnafont said, providing details of the meeting.

"The president considered this increase as promising, but still too weak considering the strategic position Thailand occupies in Asia," the spokesman said.

France considers Thailand "a key country" on that continent, and hopes to develop partnerships with Thailand, particularly in the fields of high technology, energy, defense, security and infrastructure, he said.

The two men also discussed France's aid to Thailand following the December's tsunami. French tsunami aid to Thailand is estimated at Ђ6 million (US$7.3 million), including Ђ5 million (US$6 million) issued through the French Red Cross.

The Thai prime minister was in France for the general conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Chirac was due to visit Thailand in January, AP reported.

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