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Thailand to revive Iranian economic ties through rice deals, trade
[BANGKOK] Thailand aims to resume rice exports with Iran, the Thai commerce ministry said on Monday, following a trade meeting between the two countries in the Thai capital Bangkok.
Trade leaders from the two nations met on the sidelines of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue meeting, a Thai-led meeting aimed at fostering dialogue among various regional organisations.
Thailand and Iran agreed to resume bilateral trade and aim to increase their shared market from $310 million to $3 billion by 2021, said Thai commerce minister Apiradee Tantraporn, following a meeting with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Reza Nematzade.
Thailand, the world's second-largest rice exporter, also aims to export 700,000 tonnes of rice to Iran per year, Apiradee told reporters, the same level as before increased economic sanctions were imposed in 2012.
In February, Thailand and Iran signed four memorandums of understanding worth 4.3 billion baht (S$168.95 million) that would see 300,000 tonnes of white and jasmine rice shipped to Iran.
Iran's public health ministry has yet to finish inspecting the quality of the Thai grain, but the process should be completed within this year, Apiradee said, adding that shipping would begin soon afterwards.
Thailand's rice industry welcomed the agreement.
"Iran is an old market we have always wanted to return to," Charoen Laothamatas, president of the Thai Rice Exporters'Association, told Reuters.
Thailand aims to export 9.5 million tonnes of rice in 2016 and has already exported 6.2 million tonnes until August.
On Sunday, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani arrived for the summit in Bangkok, marking the first Iranian presidential visit to the Southeast Asian nation.
Economic sanctions targeting Iran's disputed nuclear programme were lifted in January.
Thai Airways and Thai AirAsia X started selling direct flights between Bangkok and Tehran this year in a bid to attract wealthy tourists from the Middle East.