Indian ambassador to Thailand, Anil Wadhwa, sees great potential in free trade agreements and further economic cooperation between the two countries
Anil Wadhwa, the ambassador of India to Thailand, is hopeful that Thailand and India will conclude a new, vastly expanded version of the two countries’ free trade agreement (FTA) by the middle of this year.
The current FTA covers only 84 items but the new one will include more than 30,000.
“It will be a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement [covering trade and investment in manufactured goods, as well as services], so it is very significant.
“We are looking at all sectors of the economy and feel that it will be complementary for our two countries’ economies.
“The current bilateral trade value is roughly about US$8 billion annually. This was estimated for 2011 and it should grow to at least $10 billion in 2012. If we conclude an expanded comprehensive economic agreement, there are possibilities that the value will go up much further.
“The comprehensive agreement will cover investment flows and related issues.
“Regarding Asean, we also have negotiations with the [10-country] grouping on free trade, which started much later than those with Thailand, which we began in 2003,” the envoy said.
India is one of Asean’s six dialogue partners, also including China, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
In 2015, the Asean Economic Community will become effective, creating a single market of nearly 600 million consumers, as well as being a single production base where import tariffs will be reduced to zero.
On Prime Minister YIngluck Shinawatra’s planned trip to India later this month, Ambassador Wadhwa said, “She will be visiting India as the chief guest during India’s National Day [on January 26]. It will also be a combination of bilateral talks.
“As the chief guest, she will be taking the salute as the march passes central Delhi, while our president will accompany her. The visit also shows that relations with Thailand have progressed rapidly over the past few years, as we see Thailand as a very important country in terms of our “Look East” policy and in terms of Thailand being a member state of Asean.
“We expect to sign five or six bilateral agreements with Thailand during the state visit, covering science and technology cooperation, cultural exchanges, consular issues and defence cooperation.
“We also emphasise our connectivity with Asean in our “Look East” policy, as we have maritime boundaries with Thailand as well as Burma, which we want to develop in the future.
“One of the most important routes is connecting our northeastern region with Burma and Thailand, and going on to other countries, namely Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
“[As a result], we’re very interested in investing in the Dawei special economic zone in Burma, as proposed by the Ital-Thai Group for construction of a deep-sea port and industrial estates. We are discussing this project with Thailand.
“Due to the complementary nature of the Thai and Indian economies, we could also do a lot together in sectors such as information technology, automobiles, food processing, infrastructure development for ports, and power plant construction.
“Once we have the services sector covered in our comprehensive economic agreement, I am certain that there would be projects taking place in the hospitality industry, for example.
“[For long-term cooperation], we will have to match our strong points, such as Thailand’s strength in hardware, with India’s strong skills in software, and if we can marry these skills, we could become a formidable force.”