By Surasak Tumcharoen
BANGKOK, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- China is not only moving to achieve a strategic balance with the United States in Southeast Asia but is also expanding its trade and investments in the region, including Thailand, according to a ranking member of the Thai parliament.
In an interview with Xinhua on Tuesday, House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Sunai Julpongsathorn said he viewed Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's recent visit to Thailand as a " significant and historic step"in further strengthening the already strong Thai-China relations.
Sunai said that Premier Li's address before the Thai parliament was a concrete proof of China's strong attachment to Thailand and its desire to expand the bilateral trade and investment opportunities between the two countries.
While the United States has set up the Trans-Pacific Partnership among the APEC countries, including the ASEAN member states, China has promoted the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with the ASEAN bloc as well, Sunai said.
Sunai said China was obviously moving to keep its leverage against the inroads by the United States in the Southeast Asian region which will become an ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.
"While China is moving to keep the strategic balance with the U. S., the former will enormously benefit from economic dealings with the APEC bloc in which Thailand will be a leading member. In particular, Thailand has a lot of farm goods such as rice and rubber to offer to China as one of the world's biggest agricultural markets, which has some 1,300 million consumers," he said.
Premier Li and his Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra signed an MOU for barter trade and economic cooperation in which Thailand would offer Thai rice and rubber to China and China in return would contribute to the realization of an ambitious Thai high- speed rail project, for which part of an estimated 73 billion U.S. dollars in loan money will be earmarked.
China has offered to increase the volume of Thai rice that it purchases from Thailand from 200,000 tons to 1 million tons plus 200,000 tons of Thai rubber per year.
"We do not only regard the Chinese as a world superpower but our brothers with whom we could practically keep in touch. Remarkably, the high-speed train project is geared toward regional connectivity of which China and Thailand are the major partners," he said.
China plans to transport tourists and goods aboard high-speed trains to Thailand's Nong Khai province via Vientiane in Laos across the international Mekong River. The planned international route will have access to the Thai capital city through Nakorn Ratchasima province, viewed as the gateway to the northeastern Thai region.