ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and Thailand on Tuesday expressed the resolve to build a strong economic partnership, double their trade figures to two billion US dollars in next five years and eventually enter into a Free Trade Agreement.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Thai Premier Yingluck Shinawatra, addressing a joint press stake out after a round of bilateral talks, also expressed their commitment to collaborate in the field of trade, culture, infrastructure development, science and technology, defence, education and tourism.

Prime Minister Sharif said the two sides held a ‘comprehensive discussion’ on wide ranging issues and noted the convergence of views on important bilateral and international issues. The two sides also discussed regional and international issues of mutual interest.

Prime Minister Shinawatra extended her country's support to Pakistan in becoming a Full Dialogue Partner with the ASEAN, as Prime Minister Sharif appreciated Thailand's "consistent support" for Pakistan's enhanced partnership with the regional forum.

Sharif also expressed satisfaction with the progress made in recent years in the political, economic and defence spheres. "We agreed to further consolidate and expand this partnership for the mutual benefit of our people," he added.

The Thai PM also noted cooperation in security and defence particularly in the areas of training and joint exercises. The Prime Minister said that building robust economic and trade relations were a priority with the government.

"Both the sides have agreed to work towards a Free Trade Agreement to form the centre piece of our economic partnership," said the Prime Minister and mentioned that both the countries have agreed to establish a Joint Trade Committee and a Joint Business Council at the private level to promote business-to-business contacts on the two sides. "We are happy to note that private business sectors on both sides have also met today," the Prime Minister said and also mentioned that the inaugural session of the Joint Trade Committee was being held tomorrow to identify areas of future collaboration.

He expressed the hope that these desired steps would expand bilateral trade and investments and facilitate business partnerships. "We have invited Thai private businesses to invest in Pakistan in various sectors including infrastructure development, energy, auto-parts manufacturing, food processing, packaging, gems and jewellery, tourism and hospitality," said Prime Minister Sharif.

He said that greater connectivity between Pakistan and Thailand was also very important to facilitate trade and investment and said "to this end we believe that Pakistan and Thailand may utilize each other's geo strategic location."

He said people to people contacts were one of the most important aspects of their relations. He said the number of Pakistani tourists visiting Thailand was steadily increasing and expressed the hope that "Thai Buddhist community would visit the land of Ancient Civilisation Gandhara, known as a bedrock of their faith and spiritualism.

Sharif said Pakistan and Thailand are connected with a common linkage through Gandhara civilization. "We have agreed on the need to enhance and deepen cooperation in the regional and multilateral frameworks," the Prime Minister said.

"We desire to comprehensively upgrade our relationship with Thailand in all areas of cooperation," he said and termed it a critical component of "Vision East Asia" policy that complements Thailand's "Look West" policy.

The Prime Minister of Thailand also mentioned the importance of enhancing people to people contacts and agreed on need to further enhance bilateral and regional cooperation through various multilateral fora, like Asian Cooperation Dialogue and for enhanced South Asia and South East Asia interaction.

She expressed the belief that international cooperation will help address the challenges being confronted by extremism and terrorism and also sought support of Pakistan at the Organisation of Islamic Conference.

Nawaz Sharif said during his "comprehensive discussion" with Prime Minister Shinawatra there was a convergence of views on important bilateral and international issues.

Prime Minister of Thailand Yingluck Shinawatra said though Pakistan and Thailand enjoy deep friendly relations for the last 60 years, she was the first Thai PM to visit Pakistan in more than a decade.

She expressed the condolences of government and people of Thailand over the losses of life and property in the recent floods in Pakistan. The Thai Prime Minister also felicitated Pakistan on the successful holding of the general elections and the Presidential election. She said Thailand believes in value of democracy and respects the will of the people.

Meanwhile, Pakistan and Thailand on Tuesday inked an agreement and two memoranda of understanding (MoUs) to ease visa requirements for diplomats, establish joint trade committees and a joint business council to further strengthen trade and economic ties between the two countries. The inking of the agreement and MoUs here at the PM house were witnessed by Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and her Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra, after a round of bilateral talks that covered the whole range of issues between the two countries. The Agreement on Mutual Exemption of Visa Requirements for holders of diplomatic passports was inked by Special Assistant to Prime Minister Tariq Fatemi and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand Jullapong Nonsrichai.

The MoU on establishment of a Joint Trade Committee was inked by Minister of State for Privatisation Engr. Khurram Dastgir Khan and Deputy Minister of Commerce Yangyong Phuangrach.

The MoU on establishment of a Joint Business Council was signed by President FPCCI Zubair Ahmed Malik and Chairman Board of Trade of Thailand Isara Vongkusolkit.