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Israel seeks bilateral FTA deal with Thailand

Israel seeks bilateral FTA deal

By Jeerawat Na Thalang
The Nation
Publication Date : 2005-01-13

Israel is interested in a free-trade agreement with Thailand in order to enhance economic and political ties between the countries and triple trade value in the next four years, Israeli diplomats said Wednesday in Bangkok.

Marie-France Majer, economic and trade counsellor at the Embassy of Israel, said the Israeli government had asked the Commerce Ministry if the government was interested in starting bilateral free-trade talks.

“It could be possible,” she said, admitting that Bangkok has not yet issued an official response.

Majer said the Israeli economy - based on research and development, and agro-industry - had the potential to be an active trade partner with Thailand.

In 2003, two-way trade totalled US$762 million (Bt29.7 billion), while total trade value in the first nine months of last year reached $552 million.

“I am an optimistic person and I believe that our trade volume can reach $2 billion in the next three or fours years,” she said.

Her confidence was boosted by the fact that both governments are scheduled to sign a joint economic framework to promote economic ties later this year.

“The content has been concluded,” she added.

Israel has already signed a number of FTAs with major economic powers such as the United States, the European Union, Canada, Mexico and Singapore.

“Of course, Thailand has negotiated a number of FTAs, but I think it takes time before the tariffs will go down to zero or to end the quota,” Majer said.

Thailand has signed two economic agreements with Israel: a double taxation treaty, and a deal on investment protection.

Apart from the joint economic framework scheduled to be signed later this year, said Majer, the two governments planned to sign a cultural cooperation agreement to promote social ties.

“Economy has been the backbone of international relations,” said Israeli Ambassador Gershon Zohar.

The ambassador also said that Israel had taken part in the tsunami relief effort. It has sent 23 forensic experts, pathologists and dental experts to Thailand to help identify the bodies of victims, and has also provided 3,000 plastic bags and 500 chemical masks.

The Israeli forensic team is part of an overall international contingent of 250 experts from 19 countries.

“The community of top international forensic experts is here,” Zohar said, adding that the disaster had raised the international standard of forensics work.

Five of the tsunami victims are Israeli, he said, and there was still one Israeli unaccounted for. Thailand is a popular destination for Israeli tourists, he said, with around 100,000 coming here annually.

Meanwhile, the ambassador also said the election of Mahmoud Abbas as the new Palestinian president marked a “milestone in maturing the political scene”.

Majer said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had telephoned Abbas to congratulate him on his election victory.

Zohar said he was hopeful that Abbas would engage in constructive dialogue during his tenure.

 source: Asia News Network