Sun, Sep 26, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Thailand wants to swop chickens for Swedish jets

AP , BANGKOK

Italy's Vespa and Sweden's Electrolux want to step up investments in Thailand, the prime minister said yesterday as he proposed opening more Thai restaurants in Italy and bartering Swedish jets with chicken.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra made the comments in a radio speech soon after returning from a four-day visit to Italy and Sweden, where he met his counterparts and business leaders including executives of motor scooter giant Vespa and the world's largest kitchen appliances maker, Electrolux.

He said he received positive response at the meetings.

"They are interested in having production in Thailand. Electrolux wants to expand. They already have production here and they want to expand. As for Italy, Vespa wants to have production," he said without elaborating.

Thaksin, who met with the president of Fiat cars and the president of the Confederation of Italian Industries, said he invited Italian businesses to visit Thailand "as my guests so I can introduce them to our business sector."

During his meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Thaksin complained that there were too few Thai restaurants in Italy.

"There are 200 Italian restaurants in Thailand, but in Italy there are only two Thai restaurants. The main issue is that we can't come in because you're strict,'" Thaksin said he told Berlusconi, who offered to amend the problem quickly.

He also reiterated his efforts to broker a chickens-for-fighter jets deal with Swedish company Saab.

The deal is aimed at finding new chicken markets. Thailand, among the top four poultry exporters in the world, has been badly hit by two outbreaks of avian influenza that killed 28 people in Asia this year, including nine in Thailand. Thaksin said earlier this week that the country has a huge inventory of raw chicken meat stored in warehouses.

"I told them I don't want to buy using cash. If we barter -- if they take our chickens, our tapioca, our shrimp -- I'll take them," Thaksin said. "They produce from their factories, we produce from the earth."

On Thursday, Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson said Thaksin should not expect the Swedish government to negotiate the deal with Saab.

Persson said he would love to see the JAS 39 Gripen jet fighter sold to Thailand, but that it was up to Saab, the aircraft maker, to negotiate the terms.

Thaksin has also tried to trade chickens for arms with Russia.

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