Thai specialists in US for FTA technical talks

Bangkok Post, 10 September 2005

Specialists in US for FTA technical talks

ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT

Separate teams are to discuss financial services, telecommunications and government procurement in Washington, while Thai and US negotiators also pursue separate aspects of their free trade area (FTA) talks in Hawaii, said Thailand’s chief negotiator, Nitya Pibulsonggram. Naris Chaiyasoot, the director-general of the Fiscal Policy Office, will be the lead negotiator on financial services. He is scheduled to meet with officials from the US Trade Representative and Treasury Department on Sept 22-23, prior to the annual meeting of World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Mr Nitya said on liberalising services and investment, Thailand insists on adopting a ’’positive list’’ approach, where only those sectors explicitly outlined in the agreement would be opened. The US insists on a ’’negative list’’, under which all sectors are on the table except those listed as sensitive.

On telecoms, Kulit Sombatsiri, deputy secretary-general of the National Telecommunications Commission, will be lead Thai lead negotiator in talks with the US Federal Communications Commission.

Telecom talks would cover technical issues regarding regulations for telecom and e-commerce sectors.

The negotiating team on government procurement, headed by Choonhajit Sangmai from the Comptroller-General Department, will meet with several agencies and study regulations of market access in various states in the US, said Nongnuth Phetcharatana, head of the American and South Pacific Affairs Department.

’’Each state in the US might have a different threshold for domestic procurement, and we would find out if liberalisation on the government procurement sector would really benefit us,’’ Mrs Nongnuth said.

Thirty states agreed to open up market access for government procurement to Australia after Washington signed its deal with Canberra, she said.

Mr Nitya noted that Thailand had 26 sensitive lists of agricultural goods and seven categories of sensitive industrial sectors, as well as concerns on several aspects of intellectual property issues.

At the fifth round of FTA talks to be held from Sept 26-30 in Hawaii, Thailand would push for protection of traditional knowledge and folklore and ensure that any party that exploited natural resources for commercial gains had to pay a fair share to the host country, said Mr Nitya, also former ambassador to the US.

He emphasised pharmaceuticals would not be discussed at this round of talks, although copyrights would.

Thailand remains committed to bargain for equitable benefits with no preconditions, and no timeframe, Mr Nitya said.

source: Bangkok Post