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Political problems no threat to FTAs, says Kantathi

The Nation, Bangkok

Political problems no threat to FTAs, says Kantathi

By Marisa Chimprabha, New Delhi

9 August 2006

Thailand yesterday dismissed news reports that political problems at home had delayed negotiations on free-trade agreements (FTAs) among members of the regional Bimstec trade bloc.

Bimstec stands for Bangladesh, India, Myanmar (Burma) Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal Economic Cooperation.

Caretaker Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon said the FTAs were expected to be discussed and concluded at the Bimstec summit in February next year.

"It is not only Thailand but Bangladesh who will have a national election. By the time of the summit, Thailand and Bangladesh will have post-election governments. Their leaders will sit and finish the agreements, possibly at the summit," said Kantathi.

Kantathi was responding to a report in a Bangladeshi newspaper that quoted Bangladeshi officials as saying Thailand’s political problems had proved an important factor in the delay of multisectoral technical and economic FTAs among Bimstec members.

"Ongoing negotiations on the issue are at a technical level and Bimstec members have no plans to conclude and sign agreements this year. Therefore the ongoing political problems in Thailand could not be a factor delaying the FTAs," said Kantathi, who is in New Delhi to attend a Bimstec meeting scheduled for today.

He said Thailand would focus on cooperation on energy, including research on alternative and renewal energy resources, and public health, including traditional medicine and communicable diseases, particularly bird flu.