US to reduce $18bn trade deficit with Thailand

The US has resolved to reduce its trade deficit with Thailand, President Donald Trump said as signs of warmer ties between Washington and Bangkok improve.

Trump disclosed this in Washington when he sat with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in the Oval Office.

Since assuming office, President Trump has sought to improve trade relationships with many countries.

“Our relationship on trade is becoming more important and it’s a great country to trade with,” Trump told the Thai official before reporters.

“I think we’re going to try to sell a little bit more to you, if that’s possible.”

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office reported that the US trade deficit with Thailand was $18.9 billion last year, the 11th largest faced by the United States.

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The meeting was a sign of improved ties between the United States and Thailand after the relationship cooled when the Thai military took power in a 2014 coup.

Human rights groups had strongly opposed the meeting, seeing it as a reward for an authoritarian leader who has cracked down on opposition and rolled back democratic freedoms.

Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai hailed the meeting between the leaders as “special”.

“It shows special attention for the Thai prime minister,” Don told official Thai media traveling with the delegation.

Don used the visit as an opportunity to praise his government’s achievements. “If we weren’t good, they probably wouldn’t invite us,” he said.

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The junta has promised to hold a general election in 2018 but has yet to set a firm date.

Prayuth raised the issue again on Monday.

“I told him (Trump) … next year we will announce a general election date,” Prayuth told reporters.

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