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Bid to revive FTA talks with us

The Nation, Bangkok

Bid to revive FTA talks with us

Agreement would drive economic growth, says Viroon

4 April 2008

By Petchanet Pratruangkrai

The Commerce Ministry yesterday indicated to the United States that it is ready to resume talks on a free-trade agreement (FTA) as concerns mount that Thailand may lose its competitive edge to export rivals.

Deputy Commerce Minister Viroon Tejapaiboon said that as democracy had been reinstated, Thailand was ready for talks.

"We cannot refuse to liberalise and an FTA is one of the most effective engines in boosting growth for the country," Viroon said.

FTA discussions between Bangkok and Washington went on for seven rounds before the US walked away following the 2006 coup.

Under existing free-trade pacts Thailand has with China, India, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, the agreements help to generate more than Bt4 trillion of income to the Kingdom from trade and investment.

Chutima Bunyapraphasara, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said Thailand needed an FTA with the US.

The Kingdom recently agreed to conclude a belated FTA with South Korea and will soon wrap up talks with Malaysia.

Delays in such talks can cost much foreign exchange as countries that do not sign pacts face extremely high tariffs. "Without the bilateral trade pacts, we could lose our competitiveness," Chutima said.

If Thailand and the US agree to revive talks, negotiations will start from scratch again.

Thailand should follow Article 190 under the new Constitution Act, which requires the government to seek parliamentary approval and a public hearing before proceeding with the talks.

Nilsuwan Leelarasamee, deputy secretary-general of the Federation of Thai Industries, said Thailand needed to sign an FTA with the US but should avoid including any sensitive issues such as intellectual property rights.

Virachai Vongbusin, director of the Board of Trade, said Thai enterprises should further build themselves up to raise their ability to compete under FTA rules. "We must not only follow required standards of our trading partners, but we must further develop ourselves to serve target customers and pay attention to corporate social responsibilities," he said.