Both President Obama and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra expressed the utmost confidence that our partnerships can only grow as we pursue our mutual goals of global economic growth and the promotion and protection of human rights and security.
Our alliance has stood the test of time. Its vibrancy is rooted in our shared commitment to democracy, human rights and free markets. Economically, our countries are growing ever more deeply connected. Bilateral trade between the U.S. and Thailand increased 15 percent last year, totaling $35.7 billion in 2011. With a projected economic growth rate of over 5 percent, Thailand represents a tremendous trade and investment opportunity for U.S. businesses. President Obama made the expansion of our economic partnership a priority in his discussions with the prime minister. Thailand also expressed our interest in eventually joining the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.
Both Thailand and the United States share a desire to build a region and a world that are safer and more secure. We have a history of shared sacrifice that spans more than six decades. As President Obama remarked, “Our troops have fought together and bled together.” We have stood side-by-side to protect the vulnerable through peacekeeping operations, including in Darfur. We have patrolled sea lanes together in counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden. We train together each year in the largest multilateral military exercises in the Asia-Pacific region, Cobra Gold. Together, we have also been confronting nuclear threats by participating in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Proliferation Security Initiative, which Thailand recently joined, to help prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands.
Security, however, is not always a military matter. President Obama and Prime Minister Shinawatra agreed to strengthen our countries’ cooperation in combating the scourge of narcotics and the modern-day slavery of human trafficking. Additionally, they pledged to pool resources to improve public health, increase technical assistance in developing vaccines for HIV and dengue fever, and intensify efforts to protect against the threat of pandemics, such as avian flu and drug-resistant malaria.
President Obama’s praise for Thailand’s efforts to bolster democracy struck a chord of pride in every Thai. As the president noted, our efforts in this regard have not been confined to our own borders. Thailand is the heart of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the gateway to Myanmar, where we have encouraged and supported democratic reforms. Thailand welcomes U.S. comprehensive engagement with ASEAN, including improved U.S.-Myanmar relations.
We thank the U.S. for backing and working in partnership with us in the Lower Mekong Initiative, a broad agenda to improve the environment, health, education and infrastructure in the sub-region that also includes the Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Viet Nam. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the Thailand International Development Cooperation Agency recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to support human resources development in the Lower Mekong. These are just a few avenues in which Thailand and the U.S. can work as partners for development and advancement.
Thailand’s deep history of involvement with the U.S. and its people is a point of honor for our nation. We welcome opportunities for even greater cooperation in the future. Together, we can accomplish a great deal of good for both of our peoples. As President Obama made clear, we share an abiding aim of improving the lives of all in our region of the Pacific and in the world at large.
Satjipanon is Thailand’s ambassador to the United States.