Fashioning diplomacy: Thailand’s soft power exchange with France

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Thailand is set to partner with France, known for its soft power prowess in areas such as fashion and tourism, in a knowledge exchange initiative spearheaded by the Department of Trade Negotiations (DTN). The deal was set in motion following inter-agency discussions between the two nations.

The most recent, being the fifth high-level economic dialogue (HLED), saw the DTN Director-General Chotima Iemsawasdikul and Magali Cesana, leader of France’s Bilateral Affairs and International Business Development Department (Sabine), in a meeting on April 30 in Paris.

France, widely recognised as a leading innovator and technology developer, plans to broaden its investments in Thailand’s transport sector. The focus will primarily be on urban mobility projects, alternative energy, and electric vehicle batteries, as revealed by Chotima.

In return, Thailand is set to tap into France’s soft power expertise, honing in on product development in areas such as cosmetics, perfume, textiles, fashion – with an emphasis on Thai silk – and health tourism.

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Just last month, the CEO of Comité Colbert in France, Bénédicte Épinay, visited Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin at the Government House. This visit was after PM Srettha’s trip to France, where discussions around Thailand’s soft power capabilities took centre stage with local business leaders.

The Pheu Thai Party leader and chairwoman of the National Committee on Soft Power Development, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, announced the impending launch of the One Family One Soft Power (OFOS) project. Scheduled to kick off in June, the project aims to create 20 million jobs, each with a minimum annual salary of 200,000 baht.

The OFOS initiative will offer up-skilling and re-skilling courses free of charge to Thai citizens. The registration for these courses begins in early June. The courses, expected to attract 266,400 online and 30,210 onsite participants, will cover occupational skills in industries like food, film and drama, music, sports, fashion, festivals, books, video games, tourism, and art.

Chotima, the DTN chief, highlighted the close connections between Thailand and France in aeronautics, rail transport, and intellectual property. She also revealed that France has pledged support for a Thailand-European Union free-trade area (FTA) agreement, which will open up extensive trade and investment opportunities between the two countries, reported Bangkok Post.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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