The new Asia initiative announced by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu during the 11th Ambassadors' Conference held in the capital province of Ankara earlier this month updates Turkey's foreign policy and lays out new goals toward expanding political and economic relations with Asian countries.
In her evaluation of Turkey's relations with the Southeast Asian country Thailand as part of the new foreign policy initiative, Ankara's envoy to Bangkok, Evren Dağdelen Akgün, explained that with the Turkey-Thailand free trade agreement, the bilateral trade volume is projected to increase by 40%.
Ambassador Akgün said they celebrated the 60th anniversary of Turkish-Thai diplomatic relations last year and that Turkey's popularity increased with the activities organized in Thailand in this scope.
Akgün noted that the new government came to power in July following the March elections in Thailand and that the king of Thailand's coronation ceremony was held in May, stressing 2019 was very active for this country.
Recalling that Thailand served as the 2019 term chair for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Akgün stated that Çavuşoğlu went to this country for the 52nd Foreign Ministers meeting of ASEAN, participated in the Turkey-ASEAN Sectoral Dialogue Partnership meeting and held bilateral meetings with his Thai counterpart.
"The mutual will to strengthen Turkish-Thai bilateral cooperation and Turkey-ASEAN relations during Thailand's ASEAN presidency was reaffirmed once again during Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu's visit to Thailand in late July," she remarked. "ASEAN attaches great importance to our sectoral dialogue partnership, and we want to take it even further. Within this framework, we can say that the term presidency of Thailand, with which we have very good relations, offers additional opportunities for further development of our relations with ASEAN as well as our bilateral relations," the ambassador explained.
Turkish-Thai Business Council meeting in Bangkok
Akgün said the bilateral trade volume retained around $1.3 billion and exports increased, but the trade balance still weighed against Turkey, adding foreign trade agreement negotiations between Ankara-Bangkok are maintaining an efficient course.
Akgün stressed that some leading Turkish companies have major investments and factories in Thailand. "When Çavuşoğlu arrived, he met with our investors, held productive meetings and exchanged views on how to improve our business relations. The Turkish-Thai Business Council meeting is expected to be held in Bangkok in September-October," she said.
Pointing out that Thailand is a prominent country for tourism, Akgün said that despite the decrease in the number of tourists coming to Turkey in 2015-2016, it entered an upward trend again in 2017 and 2018.
Akgün said most tourists visit Cappadocia and Istanbul and that Turkey's historical and cultural riches are becoming more and more recognized in Thailand, informing the media that 30,000-35,000 tourists travel from Thailand to Turkey, while around 75,000-90,000 Turkish tourists visit Thailand in response.
"THY [Turkish Airlines] contributes greatly to our cultural and tourism relations with Thailand. We bring people from all over the world to Thailand, not just from Turkey. This month, the number of flights from Istanbul to Bangkok increased to three times a day, and there are flights to Phuket every day of the week," Akgün said. "THY signed a code-sharing agreement with Bangkok Airways a few weeks ago. Cultural activities organized by the embassy will continue in the coming period. We have plans to organize Turkish gastronomy days soon. Tourism and cultural areas will be on our agenda. Besides, political consultations between the two ministries of foreign affairs are envisaged."
FETÖ's "Thai-Turkish chamber of commerce"
Ambassador Akgün pointed to the structure of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in the country and stated that FETÖ's so-called trade chamber continues its activities in Thailand. "As far as Turkish-Thai businesspeople are concerned, the only structure we still accept is the Turkish-Thai Business Council under the Foreign Economic Relations Board [DEİK] and its counterpart in Thailand," Akgün further stressed. "FETÖ has a so-called Thai-Turkish chamber of commerce, which operates under the guise of the chamber of commerce in Thailand. However, we regularly reiterate that this structure does not represent our country, businesspeople or business circles in any way. The addressee of Turkish businesspeople who want to have commercial relations with our country is also our embassy and office of the commercial counselor."
Defense and Security 2019 Exhibition in Thailand
Akgün suggested that the opportunities offered by Asia and Southeast Asia through the Asia Anew initiative announced within the scope of BKON 2019 will further develop based on new collaborations, especially in bilateral trade. "Turkey and Thailand have important areas of cooperation to turn their potential into mutual gains," he said.
The ambassador said the Defense and Security 2019 Fair would be held in Thailand in November and recalled that the fair was attended at the national level in 2017. She also added they would participate in this year's fair and promote the success of the Turkish defense industry once again in Thailand on the international level.