AN OVERVIEW OF THAI - U.S. RELATIONS

Thailand and the United States have been friends for almost two centuries. There are many unique and special elements in our bilateral relations. 

First of all, one reason for the strength of the Thai - U.S. relationship stems from the fact that we both go back a long way and have been through a lot together. Our formal relations extend back 164 years to the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between our two nations on March 20, 1833, during the Presidency of Andrew Jackson, the seventh United States President, and the reign of His Majesty King Phra Nang Klao, or King Rama III of the Chakri Dynasty. With the signing of such Treaty, the two countries pledged to establish "a perpetual peace" between each other, a vow that has certainly withstood the test of time. We, in Thailand, recall with gratification that this Treaty was the first such Treaty that the United States had concluded with any Asian country.

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej Maharaj, our present King, was born some 70 years ago in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where His father, His Royal Highness Prince Mahidol, was studying medicine at the Harvard Medical School. Since His accession to the throne over 50 years ago, His Majesty the King has paid two visits to the United States -- the first one in 1960 and the second one in 1967. Last November, President Clinton visited Thailand, and this was the first visit by an incumbent U.S. President since the visit by President Nixon 27 years ago in 1969.

Thailand and the United States share similar values and ideologies, among which are peace, liberty, democracy and free enterprise. This leads both of us to continue our close ties and cooperation in a variety of fields as partners in the pursuit of common interests that benefit both of our countries and peoples. 
In defense of our common values, Thailand and the United States have fought side by side and have made countless sacrifices for one another. 

    • Thailand is one of the five countries in the Asia - Pacific region, and one of only two countries in Southeast Asia, with whom the United States has a bilateral security agreement. 
    • A military assistance agreement was signed with the United States in 1950 following the end of the Korean War. 
    • In 1954, the Manila Pact was signed, pursuant to which the United States recognizes that a threat to the security of Thailand constitutes a threat to the United States. This Pact was subsequently reinforced by the Thanat-Rusk Joint Communique of 1962. 

The mutual security agreements still continue to remain strong today. As testimony to the strong security ties between Thailand and the United States are the annual military exercises which our two countries have held for decades. These military maneuvers, dubbed "Cobra Gold," are the largest military exercises involving the United States forces anywhere in Asia.

The strong and close ties between the United States and Thailand serve as a solid foundation for the United states' overall engagement in Southeast Asia and the Asia - Pacific region at large. Such engagement takes the form not only of bilateral contacts between the U.S. Government and each of the countries in the region, but also takes place through U.S. participation in various regional organizations and fora, such as the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference, and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). 

The ARF, of which Thailand and the United States are among the founding members, is a mechanism that puts a premium on preventive diplomacy to maintain peace and harmony in the region. The United States' constructive involvement in Asia and cooperation with the like-minded Asian countries have contributed to the region's overall foundation of peace and security that the region now enjoys. This had made it possible for these Asian countries to concentrate their energies fully on cooperation for the future growth and prosperity of their peoples. 

On the economic front, the U.S. is currently Thailand's largest trading partner, while Thailand is the United States' 17th largest trading partner and is gradually rising up the ranks. Two-way trade between our two countries stands at almost 20 billion dollars a year. The United States is also one of the top three largest foreign investors in Thailand, with a total aggregate investment of almost 25 billion dollars.

At present, almost 600 American companies, large and small, are doing business in Thailand and the number is growing. These American companies are engaged in various aspects of economic activities in Thailand -- manufacturing, energy, trading, financial, consultant and many others. This number includes American transnational companies such as General Motors, Chrysler Corporation, Ford Motor, IBM, Unocal Corporation, Kellogg's, Citibank, NationsBank, Bank of America, General Electric, Coca Cola, Digital Equipment Group, AT&T, NYNEX, Nike, Goodyear, and Microsoft, to name a few. In 1995 alone, more than 150 American companies submitted applications for new or expanded investment.

Even today a lot of business opportunities for American investors and business partners exist. This includes opportunities in basic transportation system, public utilities, such as telecommunications and electricity, environmental protection and restoration, environmental technology, biotechnology and food processing industries - all areas in which American companies excel. Thus, the economic relations between Thailand and the United States have so far always been important and will still be important and continue to grow, both in terms of trade and investment, even in the next century. 

Beyond Thailand herself, a forum has emerged that brings together a group of trading partners with shared values. This is the Asia - Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), whose 18 members include the United States and Thailand, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. 

ASEAN comprises Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Brunei, and Vietnam. As a group, ASEAN was the United States' 4th largest export market and her 3rd largest source of imports in 1995. It is projected that over the next 15 years, ASEAN will become the United States' 2nd largest trading partner, with two-way trade totaling more than 300 billion dollars per annum. 

Other issues of mutual interest and concern -- Thailand and the United States have been in collaboration with each other in a wide range of areas. Narcotics suppression is one of the areas that Thailand has been working closely with the United States. The Royal Thai Government has reiterated its commitment to do its best to combat illicit drug trafficking. 

Regarding education, there are more than 10,000 Thai students in institutions of learning in the United States, including students under the American Field Service (AFS) program, and the Fulbright scholarships, among others. In the military education field, we have Thai IMET cadets in military and naval academies and institutions, in U.S. National Defense University and other types of training.

The friendly relations between Thailand and the United States continue to grow in a broad range of fields. This long and happy relationship between our two countries should be nurtured and enhanced. New and mutually beneficial areas of cooperation between the two countries should be sought out.

 

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