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Commerce to press ahead with FTA talks and AEC goal despite political situation

The Commerce Ministry yesterday insisted that moves towards achieving new free-trade agreements (FTAs) would continue as scheduled, despite the ongoing political uncertainty.

The ministry's top official also detailed eight strategies aimed at enabling Thailand to achieve its goal of becoming the hub of Asean after the establishment of a single market next year.

Permanent secretary Srirat Rastapana said international trade negotiations would continue in spite of the prevailing domestic situation, given that all political parties wanted the economy to grow and free-trade talks to come to fruition. Moreover, although a new government is yet to be formed, state agencies will continue functioning and pursuing the aim of making the country the hub of Asean.

Under the ministry's blueprint for the upcoming Asean Economic Community (AEC), eight strategies will be carried out through its agencies in all 76 provinces and 44 countries, she said. Among these is prioritising moves towards establishing a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), discussions about which are well under way.

Formation of the RECP is an FTA initiative that has been developed among 16 nations: the 10 members of Asean and the six countries with which the regional grouping already has FTAs - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, negotiations on both the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and a Thailand-European Union FTA are scheduled to be finalised next year.

In regard to the AEC's coming into effect next year, Srirat said the ministry was also focusing on the development of an AEC knowledge base through a yet-to-be-established AEC Learning Centre.

The Commerce Ministry has upgraded its trade services to facilitate the private sector through its 87 AEC Business Support Centres, and a Trade Dispute Solution Centre, she added.

Enhancing Thailand's trade competitiveness via e-commerce is also being pursued, together with development of trade logistics supply chains such as warehouses and distribution centres.Moreover, the regional economy and border trade will be improved for the establishment of "AEC Cities" in Khon Kaen, Chiang Rai and Songkhla, while Thailand's market share in the AEC has to be increased by encouraging businesses to engage in the regional market.

The Kingdom's trade and economic laws also have to be updated and be made in line with AEC commitments, while staff at the ministry itself and those at related public and private agencies should also be developed to meet the demands of the new liberalised era, said the official. "Now, we know the new government may be formed in June. If the formation of the government is delayed further, the Thai economy could see more impacts. Although the political problem remains, we are still functioning. All political parties have a certain direction, and all of them aim to promote the country's economy," she said.


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