Thailand says China gov't to buy more rice, rubber

Thailand says Chinese premier agrees to boost size of rice and rubber purchases

Associated Press
Thailand says China gov't to buy more rice, rubber
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Visiting Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, left, and his Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra, center, are greeted by villagers during their tour of a local products center in Chiang Mai province, northern Thailand Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. The Chinese premier is on the last day of his three-day visit to Thailand. (AP Photo/Wichai Taprieu)

BANGKOK (AP) -- The Thai prime minister's office said Sunday that productive talks with the visiting Chinese premier had sweetened terms of trade deals for rice and rubber.

An announcement on the Thai government website said that Premier Li Keqiang committed China to buying 1 million tons of rice and 200,000 tons of rubber per year from Thailand for an indefinite period. The sales would be on a government-to-government basis.

Li had announced Friday that a deal had been struck to purchase 1 million tons of rice and 200,000 tons of rubber from Thailand over a five-year period. In a speech to Thai lawmakers, he said that Thailand and China would boost their trade to $100 billion by the end of 2015 and that China would buy more Thai agricultural produce.

The rice and rubber trade agreement has not been formalized and no official Chinese comment was immediately available on the changed terms.

The government of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has struggled to sell much of the rice it has amassed in a price-support scheme for farmers that is a flagship policy. The scheme has accumulated losses of at least $4.46 billion since it was introduced in 2011. Its inability to resell the high-priced rice on the international market allowed India and Vietnam to surpass Thailand in the value of their rice exports.

Thai rubber farmers have staged a series of street demonstrations and blocked roads in recent months to pressure the government to shore up rubber prices, which have dropped since peaking in 2011 due to weak demand in a sluggish global economy.

Li departed Sunday for Vietnam after his three-day visit to Thailand on his first trip to Southeast Asia since becoming premier in March. He came to Thailand from Brunei, where he attended a meeting with other East Asian leaders.

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