LEADERS AGREE TO CONCLUDE US-THAI FTA IN 2006
Wednesday September 21, 2005
WASHINGTON, Sept 21 Asia Pulse - Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and US President George W Bush agreed Monday to make vigorous efforts to reach a conclusion on the US-Thai Free Trade Agreement (FTA) next year, the leaders said in a joint statement.
The admission from Thaksin on his visit to the US came as a surprise to many, with the government until now reluctant to commit to any deadline in the FTA negotiations.
"I committed to President Bush that we are pressing ahead with the FTA, and also we will work closely with U.S. by drafting the plan of action in the cooperation between our two countries," Thaksin said.
The two parties are set to begin the 5th round of FTA talks next week in Hawaii.
The US President is keen wrap up the US-Thai FTA talks, which began in July 2004, and said he wants the agreement to be concluded "as quickly as possible," according to a White House statement.
Bush and Thaksin said the FTA must be beneficial to the people of both countries, comprehensive in its mandate, and address issues of importance to both sides.
The proposed FTA between Thailand and the US will build upon the current United States-Thailand Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations.
Bilateral trade in goods reached US$23.9 billion in 2004, with US exports to Thailand totalling $6.4 billion.
In addition to the 5th round talks, the two leaders are expected to further discuss the free-trade deal at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in South Korea this November.
However, the free-trade deal has so far not had the full support of Thai farmers and businesses, which have expressed concern about the effects the removal of trade barriers would have on the country.
The talks have also met with opposition in the US, where sugar producers are against any deal that would allow Thailand to export more sugar to the US, while automotive firms want to be assured a 25 per cent tariff on Thai truck exports will remain.