Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following remarks in Bangkok, Thailand:
“Thank you, Prime Minister, for your kind words.
“Canada and Thailand have a deep and enduring friendship, with more than 50 years of diplomatic relations.
“And Canada has been a proud partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for 35 years.
“As the Prime Minister knows, I wanted to visit last fall, but after the flooding began, that was not possible.
“On behalf of all Canadians, I’d like to express our sympathy and solidarity with all the Thai people who were affected.
“Today I’m inspired to see how Thailand has recovered, and, of course, I am thrilled to finally be here.
“Prime Minister Yingluck and I both believe that expanding trade will help our countries to create more jobs.
“Thailand has a rapidly industrializing economy with 65 million consumers.
“Canadian businesses are already flourishing here, particularly in I.T., agriculture and clean technology.
“And Canada is rapidly becoming an investment destination of choice for Thai businesses.
“That’s why Prime Minister Yingluck and I are pleased to announce that Canada and Thailand are officially launching exploratory talks towards a free trade agreement.
“This will be yet another part of Canada’s ambitious trade agenda.
“As part of our Economic Action Plan, we are positioning Canada for a stronger role in a world where trading patterns are shifting.
“Of course, trade was not the only subject we discussed today.
“Canada and Thailand are already partners in the struggle against human smuggling and terrorism.
“Today we have signed agreements that will extend our partnership on these and other matters long into the future.
“And tomorrow, I will meet with Royal Thai Police officials to learn more about Thailand’s work in this area.
“Thank you once again, Prime Minister, for the opportunity to visit your beautiful country, and for your gracious hospitality toward myself and my delegation.”