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Thailand

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Thailand country brief

Bilateral relations

Australia and Thailand have longstanding and deep connections. Formal diplomatic relations were established in 1952. On 13 November 2020, Leaders signed a Joint Declaration elevating the Australia-Thailand bilateral relationship to a Strategic Partnership. The Strategic Partnership builds on the Agreement on Bilateral Cooperation, which entered into force on 27 July 2005, and demonstrates our commitment to broaden and deepen cooperation across the breadth of the relationship. The 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations, celebrated in 2022, was marked by a visit to Thailand by Foreign Minister Penny Wong in November 2022. Minister Wong signed the Plan of Action to implement the Strategic Partnership with her counterpart, then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Don Pramudwinai.

Australia and Thailand cooperate in a broad range of areas of mutual interest, including trade and investment, defence, law enforcement, counter-terrorism, education, agriculture, migration, tourism, energy and climate change. Senior Officials' Talks (SOTs) are held on a regular basis, most recently on 31 October 2023, and include 1+1 SOTs between the secretaries of foreign ministries and 2+2 with the secretaries of both foreign and defence ministries. The bilateral relationship is supported by mutual membership of international and regional organisations.

Australia was proud to play an important role in providing expertise and support to the Thai-led rescue effort of the Wild Boar junior soccer team in Tham Luang Nang Non Cave, Chiang Rai in July 2018. The operation was a remarkable demonstration of international cooperation and a symbol of unity in the region.

People-to-people links

Our strong bilateral relations are reflected in extensive people-to-people links. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand attracted large numbers of Australians for tourism and business (approximately 800,000 each year). With international travel resuming, these numbers are steadily returning to pre-pandemic levels.

There are over 200 partnerships between Australian and Thai universities. Seven Australia Awards were provided to Thai participants in 2021 through the Mekong-Australia Partnership, with ten ASEAN scholarships announced in 2022. Since 2014, 36 New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarships and more than 2,500 NCP mobility grants have been awarded for Australian undergraduates to undertake study, language training and internships in Thailand.

Australia has unique connections with the Thai Royal Family. His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit visited Australia in 1962 – the first reigning foreign monarchs to visit Australia. Then-Thai Crown Prince and current King, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn, studied at secondary school and the Royal Military College in Australia, subsequently completing training with the Australian Army's Special Air Service Regiment in Perth.

Security and counter-terrorism cooperation

Regional stability is a key area of mutual interest. Thailand was one of the first countries with which Australia concluded a bilateral MOU on Counter-Terrorism, in October 2002. This was followed by MOUs on police cooperation (June 2003), mutual assistance in customs matters (December 2003) and money-laundering (June 2004), and a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (July 2006). We undertake regular high-level dialogues on regional security,

Thailand and Australia work closely to strengthen bilateral and regional cooperation to combat people smuggling and human trafficking. Thailand hosts the Regional Support Office for the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. This Office supports and strengthens practical cooperation on refugee protection and international migration. Under the auspices of Taskforce Storm, the Australian Federal Police and Thai law enforcement agencies work together to disrupt narcotics trafficking and transnational organised crime. On 2 November 2022, Foreign Minister Penny Wong signed an MOU in support of Thailand' Center of Excellence for Countering Trafficking in Persons.

Regional Development Programs

Thailand ceased accepting bilateral development assistance in 2003 and became a development assistance donor, with a focus on human capacity building and technical cooperation.

Australia continues to work with Thailand through our regional development programs, including the Mekong-Australia Partnership (MAP) and Partnerships for Infrastructure (P4I) initiatives, to address shared challenges including climate change, transnational crime, human trafficking, labour rights, health, disaster management and economic integration. We also work with Thailand through our capacity building programs in regional organisations such as ASEAN and APEC. In 2019, Australia became a Joint Development Partner to the Thai-led Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), to support development needs in the Mekong subregion.

Australia' $46 million commitment to the Regional Trade for Development (RT4D) initiative provides world-class technical assistance and capacity building support to Thailand to realise the full benefits of our regional free trade agreements. RT4D has a particular focus on progressing cross-cutting issues such as gender equality, disability and social inclusion, sustainable development and digital trade.

Trade and investment

Australia and Thailand enjoy a substantial commercial relationship, underpinned by the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). Two-way trade in goods and services was worth approximately $30.8 billion in 2022-23, making Thailand Australia' 3rd largest trading partner among Southeast Asian countries and 10th largest overall. Since TAFTA' entry into force on 1 January 2005, trade in goods has more than doubled. Australia's key goods exports to Thailand include natural gas ($2.0 billion), wheat ($1.0 billion), and crude petroleum ($897.5 million). Thailand's key exports to Australia are goods vehicles ($6.7 billion), passenger motor vehicles ($2.1 billion) and heating and colling equipment ($1.1 billion). Over 3,000 Australian companies export to Thailand and around 200 maintain a physical in-country presence. Thai investment in Australia was valued at $10.4 billion in 2022, concentrated in the renewable energy, agri-business and hospitality sectors. Australian investment in Thailand was valued at approximately $4.8 billion in 2022.

To further promote trade and investment, and as a complement to TAFTA, on 17 November 2022 Australia and Thailand signed a Strategic Economic Cooperation Arrangement (SECA) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) [PDF 118 KB].Australia and Thailand are working together to develop an Implementation Agenda for SECA.  Business, civil society and stakeholders were consulted on the Australia-Thailand SECA [PDF 206 KB]

Australia and Thailand are parties to the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA), and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).

For further information on doing business in Thailand, TAFTA as well as Australia's trade and investment relationship with ASEAN:

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