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Thai Deputy PM Wants Broader Asia/Pacific Free Trade Zone

June 9, 2000

TOKYO (Nikkei)--Supachai Panitchpakdi, Thai deputy prime minister and minister of commerce, suggested Friday the creation of a broader free trade zone encompassing the Asia-Pacific region to accelerate economic recovery in the area.

The proposed zone would add Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand to the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) promoted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

In his speech at the annual International Conference on the Future of Asia organized by Nihon Keizai Shimbun Inc., Supachai, who is also director general-designate of the World Trade Organization, said the Asian economy is still in the process of recovering and sounded a cautious note about the current situation.

Commenting on the Thai economy, Supachai said it is only half way toward full recovery, as reform of the financial system is taking time.

Some good signs for the region are appearing, according to the Thai deputy prime minister, who noted that the Japanese economy is regaining health. He also applauded China's efforts to defend the yuan when faced with selling pressure and expressed hope China will soon join the WTO.

(The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Friday evening edition)

Titles of speakers, names of companies, etc., were correct as of the time when the forum was held.