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India, Thailand set to expand FTA

The Hindu, India

India, Thailand set to expand FTA

By Special Correspondent

7 October 2009

Enthused by the likely gains from the recently signed ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA), India and Thailand are all set to expand their FTA pact beyond goods to new areas of services and investments with focus on further consolidating their economic ties.

Revealing this here on Wednesday at the interactive business meeting at the India-Thailand Business Forum organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) with the captains of industry, visiting Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Korbsak Sabhavasu said at present both the countries were engaged in lifting the FTA into a comprehensive pact to include services and investments. He said negotiations for opening the trade in services and giving a boost to mutual investments were in progress and he was hopeful that it would be done quickly.

Mr. Sabhavasu said expanding commercial ties would help the two Asian economies to take their bilateral trade to $10 billion in 2011 from $6 billion at present. The bilateral FTA, which became operational in 2006, allows free trade in 82 items, including plastics, auto components, refrigerators and air-conditioners. However, the FTA has been implemented in a limited way through what is known in the trade parlance as the early harvest scheme or trading in only a few of the goods included in the pact.

Besides the bilateral trade pact, the two countries would expand their commerce through the recently signed FTA between India and the ten-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Mr. Sabhavasu is accompanied by a 20-member business delegation from Thailand which hopes to expand business with India ranging from electrical, chemical, logistics, textiles, automotive industries, spa services, real estate development, jewellery, food, processed meat and veterinary pharmacy. The visiting Deputy Prime Minister said Thailand was facing a difficult time due to recession but things were now looking up. Praising India for the pace of economic development, Mr. Sabhavasu said he was sure that the “‘elephant’ (India) will soon catch up with the ‘dragon’” (China). He also said that the Thailand Prime Minister would be visiting India by November-end or early December and the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, would be visiting Thailand for the ASEAN summit later this month.