Thailand-EU free-trade talks likely early next year

Economy October 30, 2012 00:00

By PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI
THE N

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Thailand hopes to start official bilateral free-trade talks with the European Union early next year, with a view to making the country the EU's trade and investment hub in Asean as well as compensating for expected lost export privileges under the General



After a meeting with Belgium’s ambassador to Thailand, Marc Michielsen, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom yesterday said the government had reaffirmed to Belgium that the Kingdom would be ready in a few months to begin talks with the EU, as the draft negotiating plan would soon be proposed to Parliament.

“Once we get the green light from Parliament under Article 190 of the Constitution, Thailand and the EU should officially start negotiations to promote economic growth and closer cooperation,” said the minister.

A free-trade agreement (FTA) should not be against the country’s interests as the government would continue to be responsive to concerns from private enterprises and non-governmental organisations, he added.

The Trade Negotiations Depart-ment reported that the Commerce Ministry had already conducted a focus group discussion about a Thailand-EU FTA with seven key sectors. The following broad sectors took part in the consultation: electronics and electrical appliances, automobiles and auto parts, and steel; fashion goods, including textiles and garments, jewellery and ornaments, footwear and leather goods; medicines; banking and finance, tourism and animation; agriculture and foods; alcoholic beverages; and environmental and plant protection.

Boonsong said that given the economic slowdown in the EU and upcoming Asean economic integration, Thailand should press ahead with FTA talks with Brussels as early as possible.

Successful implementation of a pact would ensure the Kingdom’s presence at the centre of the EU’s trading and investment relationship with the region, he said.

OFFSETTING LOST PRIVILEGES

Moreover, an FTA should help compensate for the loss of Thai export privileges to the EU under forthcoming GSP cuts.

With exports from Thailand worth more than Bt80 billion combined expected to have GSP privileges removed under the EU’s revision of the scheme in 2014, due to higher shipments and strong export growth, having an FTA in place by then would ensure that Thai exports continue to receive tariff privileges in accessing the EU market.

Meanwhile, the ambassador informed Boonsong that Crown Prince Philippe of Belgium would next year lead 200 of the country’s business people on a visit to the Kingdom to build closer cooperation with Thai enterprises.

They will seek business-matching with Thai companies in a number of sectors, including jewellery and ornaments, processed foods, agriculture and electronics.