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Premier Wen Jiabao, accompanied by Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, reviews an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the government house in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday. Sakchai Lalit / Associated Press
Cooperation on prisoner transfer, education agreed
A rice deal signed during Premier Wen Jiabao's official visit to Thailand took immediate effect, as the Chinese private sector bought 260,000 tons of rice worth about 7 billion baht ($228 million) from Thailand.
The deal helped ease domestic political and market pressure on the Thai government, which has come under fire for its rice-trading policies.
Wen and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Wednesday witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the rice deal, which will help boost trade between the two countries.
The memorandum was not a government-to-government contract on rice purchasing as widely understood, but an intergovernmental instrument to boost the rice trade, a senior official said.
The memorandum says both sides will develop rice trading for the benefit of good relations.
Under the deal, the Chinese government will support the Chinese private sector for rice trading with Thailand, according to General Damrong Kraikruan, the Foreign Ministry's East Asia department director.
The rice deal with China was the most-watched agenda item during Wen's visit because the Thai government had faced accusations from an opposition party and academics that its rice price policies damaged the domestic market and led to the decline of Thai rice trading.
However, the deal was just a part of the discussions during Wen's visit.
Thailand wants to increase Chinese investment by 15 percent annually, Yingluck said, adding that various sectors were open to Chinese investors, including rubber processing, natural plastic, automobiles, infrastructure development for connectivity, high-speed trains, water management and flood prevention.
The two leaders witnessed the signing of three more pacts on cooperation between their foreign ministries in areas including the transfer of prisoners and education.
Wen praised Yingluck's policy of making cultural and educational cooperation a priority.
The two leaders also presided over the official opening of the Chinese Cultural Center in Bangkok.
Yingluck said Thailand would open the Thai Cultural Centre in China in the near future.
Yingluck hosted an official lunch for Wen after their meeting at the government house, and Wen later made a courtesy call to privy council chairman Preme Tinsulanonda.
Yingluck conveyed her regard to the new Chinese leadership. She praised Wen as well as President Hu Jintao for their ability to bring economic success to China and the region.
The Nation - ANN
(China Daily 11/22/2012 page12)