UK businesses urge Thai govt to start free-trade talks with EU soon

Economy November 16, 2012 00:00

By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
The N

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The British business sector has urged the Thai government to start formal negotiations for a Thailand-European Union free-trade agreement early next year. Executives reason that an FTA would unlock many new opportunities for British and Thai companies, wi


The comments were made in London this week at a meeting between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the British secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, Vince Cable, which was attended by leading United Kingdom businesspeople. 
British enterprises are seeking closer cooperation with Thailand as they foresee the Kingdom being the hub and gateway for businesses to expand their trading and investment to other Asean countries and elsewhere in Asia after the integration of the Asean Economic Community, which comes into effect in 2015, with six giant Asian economies.
Cable said Thailand had proved itself to be a resilient and high-potential nation after recovering from the devastating floods of late last year. 
He said that not only did British firms want to expand investment to Thailand in a number of sectors, but Thai corporates were seeking to internationalise and would also enjoy the UK as a hub for their global aspirations.
Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, who accompanied Yingluck during this week’s visit, said Thailand stood ready to be a hub for British investors wishing to expand trade and investment to Asean. 
The government will also encourage more Thai enterprises to invest in and export to the UK, whose economy is still relatively strong and could provide a firmer base for Thai trading and investment than other EU countries, Boonsong said.
“The government will start FTA talks with the EU soon to pave the way for Thai businesses in increasing trade to the UK and the EU market. The FTA should also eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers for Thai trading,” Boonsong said.
To promote more shipments to the UK, the minister said Thailand would ask the British government to increase the import quota for fresh chicken. 
The government will also encourage Tesco, the UK-based giant modern trader, and other importers to purchase more Thai rice, and jasmine rice in particular.
Thailand exports about 62,000 tonnes of rice annually to the UK, but Boonsong expects the volume could reach 200,000-300,000 tonnes a year on stronger demand for Asian and Thai foods.
To promote recognition of Thai rice and other Thai cuisine, the International Trade Promotion Department has given a “Thai Select” certification to 39 Thai restaurants in the UK to guarantee the quality and authenticity of the food they sell.
Moreover, Tesco, which has more than 4,000 branches in the UK, is being targeted to increase its import of Thai products by 20 per cent next year. Last year, the company imported about Bt12.5 billion of Thai products into the country.