THE NATION | February 3, 2011
Thailand seeks adjustment on Australia FTA
By PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI
Thailand will soon start talks with Australia on opening up the two countries’ markets to more goods and services under their five-year-old free-trade agreement.
"The revision will focus on eliminating non-tariff barriers and increasing cooperation in promoting trade and service growth," Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said yesterday.
Thailand will ask for greater mar-ket opportunities for fresh foods, including mangosteen, shrimp and chicken, after they hit a wall of high |sanitary standards, despite zero duties, he said.
Australia will also be asked to allow Thai chiefs to work there under more flexible contracts after the country required them to take an English-|skills test before their visas could be approved.
Although Thai restaurants can open there, the requirement for fluent English has stymied their growth, as only a few Thai chefs can pass the test.
The department has found that two-way trade has witnessed significant growth in the past five years.
After the implementation of the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement in 2005, two-way trade tripled from the 2000-2004 average of US$3.4 billion per year to the 2005-2009 average of $10 billion (Bt308 billion) per year, with the Kingdom enjoying a trade surplus with its partner.
Last year, bilateral trade surged 24.19 per cent to $15.33 billion, with $3.39 billion in favour of Thailand.
High-potential exports to Australia include automobiles and parts, jewellery and ornaments, steel, air-conditioners, plastics, canned and processed seafood, computers and parts, glasses and mirrors, and rubber products.