Trade: Bhutan wants to increase bilateral cooperation in trade and investment with Thailand.

Economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji pointed out that the two countries already enjoy have “excellent cooperation” in sectors like education and health at the first Joint Trade Committee (JTC) meeting between the two countries held in the capital, yesterday.

The minister, who led the Bhutanese delegation, in his opening remarks said: “Thailand and Bhutan have excellent cooperation in the fields of health, education, agriculture, civil aviation and culture.” However, he said that collaboration in economic cooperation has been limited so far.

The minister said the bilateral agreement signed between the two countries in 2013 will help promote economic growth between two counties.

Highlighting the government’s development policies, the economic affairs minister said Gross National Happiness (GNH) strives to maintain a balance between spiritual and material advancement through sustainable development, preservation of tradition and culture, preservation of environment and promotion of good governance.

Lyonpo Lekey Dorji said Bhutan’s developmental aspirations are also guided by the Economic Development Policy (EDP), the main goal of which is to achieve economic self-reliance and full employment. “Bhutan is endowed with abundant, water, mineral and forest resources,” he said.

To take advantage of these resources, he said the government has identified hydropower, tourism, agriculture, cottage industry and mineral as the “five jewels” of the nation.

He also informed that the government is finalising a mineral development policy. It has endorsed a public private partnership policy, he said.

He said Bhutan currently produces 1,606MW of electricity. “All the national highways and road networks we have in the country will boost economy,” he said.

Thai minister for commerce and head of the Thai delegation, Apiradi Tantrapon, thanked the host for a warm welcome accorded to the foreign delegation. “Please accept our heartfelt appreciation,” she said.

The Thai minister said the meeting was an opportunity to discuss how to strengthen the bilateral relations.

The main objective of the meeting was to initiate the implementation of the trade and economic cooperation agreement signed between the two countries in November 2013.

The high level delegations held discussions on the current trade and economic relations and identified ways and means to further enhance bilateral trade, investment and economic cooperation between the two countries.

Thailand is one of Bhutan’s largest trading partners.

MB Subba