BANGKOK – Former Chilean President Eduardo Frei-Ruiz Tagle underlined his country’s interest in Southeast Asia during his visit to Bangkok this week to inaugurate a free trade agreement between Chile and Thailand.
This is the fifth such agreement Chile has made with countries in the region, following the ones signed earlier with Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, and was formally launched during a business forum in the Thai capital chaired by Frei.
During his visit, the former president was received by Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, besides other members of the government.
In a statement to EFE on Saturday, Frei emphasized the “enormous” possibilities for the two countries because of the treaty, and said he offered Chile’s support to Thailand in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.
It “presents a tremendous opportunity to the countries along the two Pacific shorelines,” he said about the TPP, which is the most ambitious trade pact ever and currently includes 12 countries in the Pacific basin, and covers all types of productive and commercial sectors.
“We have also offered to share our country’s business experience as a founding member of the TPP,” he added.
Frei, Chilean president between 1994 and 2000, was named special ambassador for the Asia-Pacific region by current President Michelle Bachelet two years ago.
Chile joined the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, during Frei’s first year as president.
“TPP will complete the APEC project,” he said, underlining that currently more than 50 percent of Chilean exports are to Asia, which in turn accounts for over 30 percent of imports to the South American country.
“This level of exchange has also begun to show in the investment sector. In recent years, Japan has become the biggest investor in Chile,” Frei said, putting special emphasis on the need to further increase engagement in this regard with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, where Chile enjoys an observer status.
“These countries, we share a lot, especially the objective of greater equality among our people,” he said, adding that Chile can be a bridge between ASEAN and the Pacific Alliance, formed by four of the most prosperous Latin American countries – Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.
On Sunday, Frei, as a part of his Southeast Asia tour, will go to Jakarta where he is scheduled to visit the ASEAN headquarters to push for a free trade agreement with Indonesia, which along with the Philippines, are two countries in the region with whom Chile seeks to form a special trade partnership.