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Thailand Barter Shrimp For Airplanes

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:o Thai minister proposes bartering shrimp for airplanes

BANGKOK: Thailand's commerce minister proposed on Monday that the government use frozen shrimp to pay for part of the cost of new airplanes to be purchased by national carrier Thai Airways.

Commerce Minister Watana Muangsook said the government will talk to members of the European Union, which produces Airbus airplanes, "to see if there would be a way to trade airplanes with Thai shrimp."

"If the EU doesn't agree with Thailand's proposal, Thailand will talk to the US about trading with Boeing," Watana told reporters. Frozen shrimp are a major Thai export item, but Watana didn't explain why Airbus or Boeing would want them.

His proposal was inspired by a long-existing Cabinet resolution requiring government agencies to use agricultural goods to pay for a portion of items over 300 million baht ($7.6 million). The Finance Ministry, the airline's majority owner, didn't immediately comment on the plan.

Thai Airways is slated to buy 15 aircraft worth 70.78 billion baht ($1.78 billion) -- eight new jetliners from Airbus Industrie, and seven used ones from United Airlines.

An initial public offering of Thai Airways' shares last month reduced the government's stake to 70.6 per cent from 92.9 per cent.

--AP 2003-12-16

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