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New Thai-US FTA chief negotiator to be appointed within January

MCOT News, Thailand

New Thai-US FTA chief negotiator to be appointed within January

25 January 2006

BANGKOK, Jan 25 (TNA) - A new head of the Thai negotiating team for the proposed Thai-United States Free Trade Area (FTA) agreement is expected to be appointed within this month, Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said Wednesday.

He said the new chief negotiator must be someone who is capable and knowledgeable in the negotiations, and who keeps closely abreast of developments regarding the Thai-US FTA issues.

"More importantly, he (or she) must be someone who can resist pressures from many sides," he said.

The new chief negotiator will replace Nitya Pibulsongkram who resigned the post earlier this month citing criticisms of his role in the sixth round of negotiations by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as the main reason for his decision.

The sixth-round of talks, which were disrupted by thousands of protestors from several civil society groups, ended on Jan 13 in the northern city of Chiang Mai with little progress agreed upon.

As chairman of Thailand’s International Economic Policy Committee, Mr.Somkid said the committee on Wednesday acknowledged the results of the sixth round of Thai-US FTA talks and told the negotiators in all 22 categories of products and services to be prepared for the upcoming seventh round of talks to be hosted by the US in February.

Pending the appointment of the new chief negotiator, all the negotiators are still working as a team, the Deputy Premier and Commerce Minister said. He said he advised the team to communicate more with all parties concerned and welcome the various opinions for use in the talks, which would help reduce pressure and conflicts during the talks.