US TO EXPAND ASSISTANCE TO THAILAND'S EXPORTERS \ ASIAN NATION STRESSES ITS STEPS TO RECOVERY

US TO EXPAND ASSISTANCE TO THAILAND'S EXPORTERS \ ASIAN NATION STRESSES ITS STEPS TO RECOVERY

Thailand is to receive expanded loan guarantees through the U.S. Export-Import Bank to assist Thai exporters, but Bangkok officials also are seeking easier import quotas during an official visit to the United States this week by the Thai prime minister.

Chuan Leekpai, leading a delegation of economic and foreign ministers from his Cabinet, will arrive in New York and later meet in Washington with President Clinton and the administration.Senior diplomatic sources said Mr. Chuan is seeking to chart a new bilateral relationship with the United States in talks focused on Thailand's recent financial performance and steps to recovery.

The delegation aims to impress upon U.S. business that Thailand should be viewed apart from still economically besieged Indonesia.

In contrast to Jakarta's reluctance, Bangkok has adopted International Monetary Fund measures to restructure its banking and financial sectors. The economic crisis has also provided momentum to major political and constitutional reforms.

The Clinton administration has said it would pledge between $3 billion and $5 billion to support additional IMF financing for Thailand, should the circumstances demand.

''I think basically we need to tell the world, and the United States in particular, of our plan for recovery,'' Thai government spokesman Akapol Sorasuchart said. ''As the first country entering the crisis, (Thailand has) had the most experience in handling the situation,'' he added.

Overall, he said the government was attempting to ''try and regain confidence and bring back investment.''

Besides meeting with President Clinton, Mr. Chuan, in his capacity as defense minister, is scheduled for talks with Defense Secretary William Cohen.

As the most recent Asian leader to meet with Indonesia's President Suharto, Mr. Chuan is expected to update Washington on developments in Jakarta.

Other meetings scheduled for New York include those with IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus and World Bank President James Wolfensohn, as well as U.S. business representatives.

Diplomatic sources say a key goal of Mr. Chuan's visit is to impress upon the United States that Thailand has moved away from the clouds of crisis that currently engulf Indonesia.

''The government is trying to clearly differentiate Thailand to show it is not Indonesia,'' a senior Western analyst said.

''They are seeking to get as much U.S. support behind them as they can (to promote the country). By themselves, it is difficult,'' the analyst said.

Mr. Chuan leads a team that includes Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi, and Finance Minister Tarrin Nimmanahaeminda.

''What the two sides want first and foremost is a desire to strengthen and deepen the whole spectrum of the bilateral relationship,'' the analyst said.

She said Mr. Chuan's team has specific financial objectives that include presenting an image of a government ''with its house in order and its act together,'' calling for support and able to move ahead in the relationship.

The key will be to reassure the United States that Thailand is going to come out of this recession, she said.