Bangkok Post - 18 April 2022
Thailand mulls more FTAs to expand export markets
By Phusadee Arunmas
Thailand is scheduled to study free trade agreements (FTAs) with countries in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America by the second half of this year, a move to expand new export markets.
According to Trade Negotiations Department director-general Auramon Supthaweethum, the department expects the studies will take 6-12 months.
During the studies, she said public hearings will also be held, with all stakeholders allowed to voice their concerns.
According to Mrs Auramon, the studies on the new FTAs were proposed by the private sector at a recent meeting of a joint public-private committee chaired by Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit to increase exports.
Thailand has 14 FTAs with 18 countries and is a member of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which came into force early this year.
According to the Foreign Trade Department, the use of FTA privileges by Thai exporters tallied US$76.3 billion in 2021, the highest in six years.
The utilisation rate of FTA privileges was equivalent to 78.2% last year, up from 76.5% in 2020.
Under the 14 FTAs, the highest use of FTA privileges stemmed from Asean ($26.3 billion, up 35.9% from 2020), followed by China ($25.3 billion, up 33.2%), Japan ($6.69 billion, up 8.49%), Australia ($6.15 billion, up 23.2%) and India ($523 million, up 19.9%).
The top five products using FTA privileges were trucks with a weight not exceeding five tonnes, fresh durian, passenger cars with 2,500cc engines, natural synthetic rubber products, and chicken meat and offal.
The import value under FTA privileges in 2021 rose 28.5% to $44.9 billion.
In a related development, Mrs Auramon reported on progress of FTA negotiations with the UK, which signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a Joint Trade Committee on Commerce and Economic Cooperation in 2020.
She said the UK proposed to host the first committee meeting in London by June.
Thai business leaders who are members of the Thai-United Kingdom Business Leadership Council are invited to attend the meeting and seek opportunities to strengthen economic relations, particularly in target sectors such as agricultural products, food, beverages, finance, health and digital.
The meeting is considered a channel for trade dialogue to negotiate an FTA between Thailand and the UK, said Mrs Auramon.
The Trade Negotiations Department is studying the benefits and impacts of a Thai-UK FTA, she said.
The studies are expected to be concluded soon, said Mrs Auramon.