Bahrain and Thailand have agreed on the establishment of a food security stockpile and distribution centre in Bahrain that will serve the GCC region, visiting Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said.
The centre will begin with products such as sugar and rice, but later could distribute other items, such as building materials and autoparts.
'We hope that we can establish a commitment in terms of the supply of food, not just for Bahrain but for the Gulf states,' he told a Press conference held at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa.
'This is a region with substantial purchasing power and good growth prospects where we have matching of demand and supply on the issue of food and we feel we can contribute to food security in the region.'
Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said a feasibility study for the centre would be completed in the next three to six months and by that time the amount of investment and how it would contribute to overall trade would be known.
'Our preliminary anticipation is that we can increase trade by three or four times quite easily, because GCC countries actually import 90 per cent of their food stuff and we currently only participate less than five per cent,' he said.
Trade between Bahrain and Thailand currently stands at $360 (BD136) million.
Vejjajiva met the country's leadership, ministers, Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Thai community during his two-day stay, which concludes tomorrow.
He announced that Bahrain and Thailand had agreed to set up of a Joint Business Council.
He said Thailand was also looking at issuing Islamic bonds and Bahrain was providing the country with technical assistance in this regard.
'We are hoping to find corresponding banks between Bahrain and Thailand so that prospective investors can have access to finance,' said Vejjajiva.
The Thai Premier said he had discussed with officials possible joint ventures in areas of agriculture and textiles, co-operation in the area of finance, as well as ongoing collaboration in education and health.
'We are very satisfied with the progress we have made over the last year and we are confident that both countries can make good use of these agreements and explore further opportunities for investment,' he said.
Meanwhile, the Thai Premier called on the GCC to support the country in normalising its relations with Saudi Arabia.
'We would like to see the normalisation of relations with Saudi Arabia,' he said.
'We are doing all we can to address the concerns of the Saudi side and we ask for the support of all the countries in the Gulf to help us achieve that objective.'
The relations have reportedly been affected by a crime committed by a Thai national in Saudi Arabia in 1989.
In terms of regional co-operation between the GCC and Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean), he said a study was underway on how a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) could be conducted between the two regions.
He said they already had other FTAs and wanted to reach out to other partners but it would need sometime because Asean was going through a process of integration among member countries.
'The (GCC-Asean) FTA is under study. Asean has made it our policy that we practice openness in the regional grouping,' added Vejjajiva.
Thai Trade Representative president Kiat Sittheeamorn also attended the Press conference.