Bangkok Post - 18 June 2021
Queries raised over FTA plan
By Phusadee Arunmas
A planned bilateral free trade deal between Thailand and Hong Kong may hit a snag as people have suggested Thailand upgrade its economic partnership and make the best use of Hong Kong as a gateway for trade with China and promote bilateral economic partnerships both for the public and private sectors of the two parties.
According to Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department under the Commerce Ministry, an online brainstorming session was held to evaluate whether Thailand should move ahead with an FTA with Hong Kong in which most participants stated that Thailand is unlikely to see any additional benefits from the deal in terms of trade in goods.
Under the Asean-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (AHKFTA) — which was signed in November 2017 and enforced in June 2019 for Hong Kong and certain Asean members such as Thailand — Hong Kong has already eliminated customs duties on all Thai products traded with the autonomous territory, she said.
However, in terms of trade in services, Ms Auramon said the deal, if signed and implemented, may attract interest from Hong Kong investors particularly in real estate, e-commerce, finance, insurance and logistics.
"Most entrepreneurs believe Thailand should make the best use of privileges offered under the Asean-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement [AHKFTA]," said the trade negotiator chief, adding the participants have also proposed that Thai and Hong Kong authorities optimise existing trade negotiation mechanisms, particularly through the Joint Trade Committee between Thailand and Hong Kong to promote trade and investment cooperation and tackle bilateral trade-related obstacles.
She said potential Thai export products include agricultural products, food, vegetables, plant-based food, health food and work-from-home products.
Entertainment, healthcare and real estate are also tipped as promising service products from Thailand.
The Commerce Ministry reported two-way trade between Thailand and Hong Kong was worth US$13.3 billion (417.2 billion baht) in 2020, with exports from Thailand amounting to $11.3 billion. Key exports included computers and parts; gems and jewellery; aircraft and parts; telephones and parts; fresh, frozen and dried fruit; and electrical appliances and parts. Key imports were gold, fabric, chemicals and electrical machinery.