Thailand-US FTA talks likely to extend beyond April

18 Feb 2006

Thailand-US FTA talks likely to extend beyond April

BANGKOK, Feb 18 (TNA) - Despite ongoing political tension in Thailand, Thai-US free trade area (FTA) negotiations will continue, senior Thai officials said Friday, but the talks are unlikely to conclude in April as desired by Washington.

Naris Chaiyasoot, Director General of the Ministry of Finance’s Fiscal Policy Office (FPO), said the Thai negotiators met here on Friday to assess progress on the Thai-US FTA talks, which were still facing problems due to Washington’s demand that the kingdom fully deregulate its financial services and allow US investors unrestricted investment in the brokering and
banking sectors.

Although the local political situation had become heated, with rumours on dissolving the parliament prevaling in the country, the Thai-US negotiations would continue, he said.

Thailand is not ready to comply with the US request to wrap up the talks in April, he said.

The Thai negotiation team wants local financial institutions to acquire innovative technology to lower their administrative risks and costs so that they can compete against their American rivals in the future.

Meanwhile, Narongchai Akrasanee, advisor to the Thai negotiators, said the service sector is the only problem area in the talks.

Both sides had already agreed on the merchandise trade sector, he said, including patents, intellectural property rights and other sensitive issues.

Mr. Narongchai, a former commerce minister, said Thailand’s financial sector should be reformed and regulated properly ahead of the trade liberalization
with the US; otherwise, Thailand would find it difficult to compete.

"It’s unlikely that the talks can be concluded within April, Mr. Narongchai said.

"There’s also a possibility that the US will turn to trade talks with other countries which want to maintain their export market share in the US," he noted.

"Thailand may face disadvantages against other exporting countries," Mr. Narongchai cautioned.

source: MCOT