FRANCE wants Thailand to reduce import duties on wine and luxury goods as part efforts to relaunch free-trade negotiations between Thailand and the European Union.
In Bangkok yesterday, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, said he had raised the issue of market access in meetings with Thai ministers during a two-visit that ended yesterday.
During his stay, Lemoyne met Kobsak Pootrakool, the Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, along with Science and Technology Minister Suvit Maesincee, Industry Minister Utama Savanayana, Deputy Foreign Minister Virasakdi Futrakul, and Deputy Transport Minister Pairin Chuchottaworn. Discussions covered over a range of issues were aimed at strengthening bilateral economic relations.
France remained committee to international free trade in the face of isolationist economic polity in the United States, Lemoyne told a press conference at the Alliance Francaise cultural centre in Bangkok.
In Lemoyne’s airing of the market access with Thai ministers, he noted that as a result of Thailand’s free trade agreement with Australia , French products face a barrier of high import duties.
The price of bottle of wine from France is significantly more expensive than that of a typical Australian wine, he said.
Luxury items, such as those from the well-known Chanel brand, also face higher cost barriers, he said.
He reiterated that the European Union wants to relaunch free trade negotiations with Thailand. The EU in December lifted a sanction on Thailand that had prohibited contact between the government ministers of both sides in recognition of what the bloc called a clearer road map towards a return to democracy in Thailand.
Lemoyne’s visit is the first by a high-level French official since Thailand’s coup in 2014.
Ministers from Britain and Italy have also visited Thailand over the past few days.
Lemoyne said French business leaders are interested in investing in the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor initiative, such as in the field of aerospace . He said he also met with French and Thai business leaders in Bangkok. The minister said that business delegates from France will visit Thailand in March to explore investment opportunities, he said.
Meanwhile, Francoise Corbin, chairman of the France-Thailand Business Council, said his organisation would organise a seminar about railways and urbanisation in Bangkok in March.
Asked about his view on the development of Thailand political situation, Lemoyne said that he wants the Thai government to follow the political road map, which determines the timing of the next election, possibly late this year.
On regional issues, he said he had discussions with Surakiart Sathirathai, a former deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, in his capacity as chairman of the advisory board for the committee for implementation of the recommendations on Myanmar’s Rakhine state. That effort is led by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan.
The French embassy in Bangkok issued a press statement saying that Lemonye discussed the regional situation with Thai authorities and that prospects for strengthening relations between the EU and Thailand under the Thai roadmap to restore democratic rule.
The statement said the visit underscores the high calibre of French assets in such strategic sectors as aircraft and aerospace, transportation, and food production, and to raise issues of market access.
Thailand is France’s second-largest Southeast Asian market and its second-largest destination in term of foreign direct investments. France reiterated its condemnation of the human rights violations committed by Myanmar security forces and called for the swift restoration of unhindered humanitarian access to the Rakhine area, the statement said.