Trump tells Thai PM Prayut he wants to increase US exports to Thailand

US President Donald Trump and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha shake hands at the White House on Oct 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP

The US wants to up exports to Thailand, President Donald Trump told reporters today as he received Thailand's General Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at the White House.

"We've had a long and very, storied history with Thailand," the President said before the media were ushered out ahead of the US-Thai meetings. "In fact, we were just mentioning that Andrew Jackson, who is on the wall, was the president when we first developed the big relationship."

"We have a very strong relationship right now …and it's getting stronger in the last nine months."

"Our relationship on trade is becoming more and more important and it's a great country to trade with. … I think we're going to try to sell a little bit more to you," Mr Trump said.

Thailand's premier, speaking through a translator, expressed condolences to victims and relatives of the overnight massacre in Las Vegas which has left 58 dead and over 500 injured, as well as hurricane victims in the US.

He expressed optimism that US and Thailand could "strengthen the cooperation" and resolve "regional issues," he said.

The two leaders sat side by side in gold chairs, with their wives seated on couches facing each other. It is the first official visit to the White House by a Thai Prime Minister since 2005.

Relations with the US soured after General Prayuth, then army chief, seized power in a coup d'etat in 2014. Thailand has drifted perceptibly closer to China. But under the Trump administration relations have been slowly normalising.

Trade remains an issue. In 2016 Thailand imported US$10.4 billion ($14.2 billion) worth of American goods, but exported US$ 29.5 billion worth. Thailand is one of 16 countries on the Trump Administration's list being investigated on account of high trade deficits, which the Trump administration has vowed to slash.

Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak who is travelling with the Prime Minister, has had discussions with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in Bangkok, and comes to Washington with a proposal for a US-Thai strategic partnership committee to boost trade and investment, and cooperation on technology and education.

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