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Cabinet urged to approve FTA talks with US

The Nation, Bangkok

Cabinet urged to approve FTA talks with US

3 May 2004

The Commerce Ministry will seek Cabinet approval tomorrow to kick off
formal talks with the United States on striking a comprehensive pact on
bilateral free trade.

The ministry is confident that Thailand will come out ahead by
facilitating cross-flows of goods, services and property rights.

But it will draw attention to |sensitive areas that need to be |considered
before meeting with the US negotiating team led by Ralph Ives in Hawaii
from June 28 to July 2.

Commerce Minister Wattana Muangsook visited Washington from March 23 to
25 to prepare for the trade talks and came back with a clearer
understanding of both sides’ positions.

The government was aiming |for a comprehensive pack-|age covering
industrial goods; farm products including those with GMOs; services
including |banking, insurance and telecommunications; labour protection;
and intellectual property rights.

The US administration expressed concern about textiles, sugar and small
pickup trucks out of fear that Japanese manufacturers would relocate
production to Thailand to export to the US.

The Commerce Ministry suggested to the other side that the FTA should
span tariff and non-tariff barriers against Thai agricultural products
and address US anti-dumping actions against Thai shrimp and plastic bags.

The US asked the government to look into the conflict between PTT Corp
and Gregory and Cook over a contract to lay parallel natural gas
pipelines and into requests from four air express couriers for
facilities at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

The US brought up the issue of copyright infringement of CDs and urged
the government to speed up legislation to protect the copyrights of
music and movie CDs.

The government will tell the US that it takes the issue seriously and
has cracked down on pirated CDs. For instance, last year 5,000 offenders
were arrested and five million pieces seized.