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Hawaii talks leave key points out

Bangkok Post, 1 October 2005

Hawaii talks leave key points out


Thailand and the United States have sorted out some technical issues but not major points during the week-long fifth round of the Thailand-US free trade talks that ended yesterday in Hawaii. The Thai negotiating team on the free trade agreement, led by Nitya Pibulsonggram, has decided to leave some crucial topics, including the approach to investment liberalisation, to the government.

Thailand prefers a ``positive-list’’ approach, in which each sector to be liberalised is explicitly named. The Americans favour a ``negative list’’, under which everything will be liberalised except for certain, named sectors.

The negotiating teams will later pursue talks on investment liberalisation by sector, according to Mr Nitya.

In future talks on investment liberalisation, the negotiators would concentrate on legal amendments acceptable to both parties, he said.

Some issues agreed on in Hawaii cover technical barriers to trade. The negotiators agreed to hold a workshop to resolve trade barriers for all Thai exports to the United States. It would help Thai exporters learn more about the US restrictions. Meanwhile, the Thai-US joint commission will also co-operate to help Thai exporters overcome any hindrances.A special unit will be set up to combine the standards of industrial goods from both countries by exchanging information related to goods standards and seeking ways to overcome existing technical barriers to trade.

Like many developing countries, Thailand experiences problems with access for some of its products to developed markets, which have set high standards on imported products. Goods from countries with less-advanced technology are thus blocked on technical grounds.

With regard to intellectual property rights, a sensitive issue for Thailand, each side discussed the substance and proposals of the other comprehensively when compared with the previous rounds.

Thailand proposed that the United States protect products such as fragrant Hom Mali rice and silk. Washington was also asked to protect and share benefits with Thai communities when it comes to commercial research and development on Thai wisdom. As well, Thailand proposed that the US co-operate and support moves by Thai small and medium-sized enterprises to obtain intellectual property protection in the US.

Both sides agreed in principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should play a significant role in copyright protection but details of how will be discussed later.

Mr Nitya said the US could help Thailand improve the standards on labour and the environment, which are high on the US agenda. Both sides discussed the possibility of setting up funds to make improvements on both issues.

Leaders of both countries recently pledged to conclude the negotiations by next year. But Thai activist groups do not want the government to rush to conclude the talks.

Oct. 1 , 05

By Bangkok Post On 3 Oct 2005

 source: Bangkok Post