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Thailand makes progress on FTA talks with Europe

MCOT News, Thailand

Thailand makes progress on FTA talks with Europe

BANGKOK, Jan 13 (TNA) - Concrete progress is being made in negotiations between Thailand and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), with the talks focusing on the liberalization of trade in all commodities and services, the head of the Thai negotiating team revealed today.

Although the talks are still in their infancy, with the first unofficial meeting taking place between the two sides on 10 January, Mr. Krirk-krai Jirapaet expressed confidence that real progress was being made.

The 10 January meeting saw the two sides exchange information and ideas on the economic systems of Thailand and EFTA member states, with both sides agreeing that trade liberalization would be of mutual benefit.

Mr. Krirk-krai said that the two sides hoped to liberalize trade in all commodities without exception, but with measures built in to ensure flexibility in the trade of more sensitive goods.

Thailand hopes that the liberalization of trade with EFTA will serve to break down trade barriers, both tax measures and non-tariff obstacles in the way of free trade, while also boosting cooperation in the transfer of technology, particularly in the areas of food, medicines, insurance and tourism.

Other issues high on the agenda are the introduction of zero tariffs for industrial goods, trade facilitation, the liberalization of the service sector, the liberalization and protection of investments, and the free movement of capital.

Mr. Krirk-krai said that EFTA was taking a broad approach to investment, rather than focusing on any one particular sector.

The two sides will also enter into negotiations on the protection of intellectual property rights and confidential information.

However, the liberalization of trade in agricultural commodities remains a sticking point, and EFTA has suggested that negotiations on agricultural trade are conducted at a bilateral level in talks between Thailand and each individual EFTA member state.

Mr. Krirk-krai said that the two sides had agreed that initial negotiations would be completed by the end of the year, with further talks in April and July.

The EFTA group consists of Switzerland, Norwey, Lichtenstein and Iceland.

While it only represents 12.2 million people, its purchasing power is high, with average annual per capita incomes of USD34,867.

However, trade between Thailand and EFTA is currently low, at only around USD1.6 billion a year.

Thailand’s most important trading partner in the group in terms of volume of trade is Switzerland.