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Negotiations likely next year with Bangladesh

Bangkok Post - 18 October 2021

Negotiations likely next year with Bangladesh
By Phusadee Arunmas

Thailand expects to begin talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) with Bangladesh next year.

Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said talks are likely at the Joint Trade Committee (JTC) meeting between Thailand and Bangladesh in Dhaka next year.

"Bangladesh recently informed us it is speeding up its study on an FTA with Thailand. We had requested Bangladesh finish its study this year so talks could kick off next year at the sixth JTC meeting," she said.

The JTC meeting is not yet scheduled.

According to Mrs Auramon, Thailand is in a good geographical location to be a distribution centre in Asean for Bangladesh, offering links to other Asean countries by both land and sea.

Bangladesh is strategically located along the Indian Ocean, making up part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The country could potentially develop into a trading hub for South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, she said.

Mrs Auramon said Thailand also proposed speeding up promotion of the linkage between Ranong port in southern Thailand and Chittagong port in Bangladesh as an important transport route in the future.

In January 2020, Thailand and Bangladesh agreed in principle to establish an FTA, aiming to double bilateral trade to US$2 billion by 2021. However, progress since then has been limited, partly because of the pandemic.

Bangladesh is Thailand’s third largest trade partner in South Asia, behind India and Pakistan.

In the first eight months of 2021, bilateral trade between Thailand and Bangladesh stood at $785 million, an increase of 30.4% from the same period last year.

Exports from Thailand were worth $747 million, an increase of 31.1% year-on-year, while imports from Bangladesh tallied $37.2 million, an increase of 17.2%.

Important export products included plastic pellets, refined oil, cement, fabrics and chemicals.

She said Bangladesh is a target investment country in South Asia with a population of more than 166 million and a high GDP growth rate averaging 6% a year over the past decade.

Thailand’s direct investment in Bangladesh totalled $1.5 billion from 2006 to 2019, mainly in agriculture and processed farm industries, construction, and hotels and related services. Bangladesh’s investment in Thailand was worth $1.12 million during the period.

Big Thai companies, including Italian-Thai Development and Charoen Pokphand Group, have already invested in Bangladesh.

 source: Bangkok Post