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Conclusion on Thai-Japanese FTA expected in July

MCOT News, Bangkok, 4 May 2005

Conclusion on Thai-Japanese FTA expected in July

BANGKOK, May 4 (TNA) - The head of the government’s Thai-Japanese free trade area (FTA) negotiating team yesterday expressed confidence that Thailand and Japan would come to a conclusion on a free trade deal by July, but said that Thailand’s stance on the issue remained confidential.

Speaking after a meeting convened by Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, Mr. Phisan Manwiphat, said that Thailand had reached its final position on the deal which has pitted Japanese industrialists against Thai farmers.

While refusing to disclose the details of Thailand’s stance, he admitted that Thailand wanted liberalization of its agricultural sector, with the exception of rice, while Japan was keen that Thailand opened up its industrial sector to free trade.

He also revealed that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had written to his Japanese counterpart requesting his support for a balanced deal which benefited both nations.

Further discussions would take place this Friday, he said, when ministers from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry are due to travel to Thailand to meet Mr. Thaksin.

A conclusion on the deal is now expected in July, while the actual agreement is likely to be signed at the end of the year.

But the liberalization of the steel trade remains a contentious issue, and the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI)’ steel group has written to the Thai-Japanese FTA negotiating committee expressing its fierce opposition to the idea of free trade.

Yesterday Mr. Korakot Phadungjit, head of the FTI’s steel group, noted that the Japanese steel industry was immensely powerful, having received government support for the past 70 years.

He warned that the immediate liberalization of the steel industry would leave Thailand unable to compete, and could lead to the closure of several steel operatives.

 source: MCOT