Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra visited Japan last month in an effort to boost international confidence following Thailand’s devastating floods. In an email interview, John J. Brandon, the director of the Asia Foundation’s international relations program, discussed Thai-Japanese relations.
WPR: What is the current state of relations between Japan and Thailand?
John J. Brandon: This year marks the 125th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between Japan and Thailand. Bilateral ties, particularly in the economic sphere, have strengthened considerably over the past decade. With 49 percent of foreign direct investment to Thailand coming from Japan, exports up 8.3 percent and the number of tourists from Japan rising by 13 percent last year, Japan is playing a crucial role in Thailand’s economic plans. In 2007, the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement was signed, aiming at free trade between both nations by 2017. Japan is Thailand’s largest supplier, particularly in the area of automobile parts, as Japanese imports to Thailand account for almost 21 percent of the country’s total. Japan is also Thailand’s second-largest export market. Leaders in both nations have pledged to expand bilateral trade to reach $100 billion by 2017.