India Daily, Jun. 1, 2005
Trade to top Thai PM’s India visit
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will arrive in India Friday on a one-day visit to find ways of pushing a free trade deal that will strengthen the growing trade relations between the two countries.
"Trade will be an important issue during Shinawatra’s discussions with Indian leaders," a Thai embassy official told IANS.
In July last year in Bangkok, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Shinawatra had agreed to set up a free trade area (FTA) that would become functional by Sep 1.
The two sides agreed that tariffs would be brought down by 50 percent in the first year, by 75 percent in the second year and completely eliminated from Sep 1, 2006.
By 2010, India and Thailand hope to have a comprehensive free trade agreement covering all items.
The two countries had set a March deadline for an agreement, but the talks derailed over the number of items in the sensitive list.
"The Thai prime minister will try to put FTA talks on track during his India visit," a Thai embassy official said.
India’s ’’Look-East’’ policy and Thailand’s ’’Look-West’’ orientation have consolidated relations between the two countries.
Bilateral trade between Thailand and India hit $2 billion last year, an increase of 34 percent from 2003.
Diplomatic and business relations between India and Thailand received a big boost after the end of the Cold War and India’s dialogue partnership with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the membership of ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
The distrust of the Cold War period dissipated after a landmark exchange of visits by India’s then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 and Thai prime minister Gen. Chatichai Choonhavan in 1989.
The formation of the sub-regional grouping BIMST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation) and the launching of Mekong-Ganga Cooperation in November 2000 were other significant milestones in India-Thailand relations.
The visit of the then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao to Thailand in April 1993 set the stage for further consolidation of bilateral relations.
Economic reforms initiated by India in the 1990s enhanced trade and investment interaction between India and Thailand.
Tourism, automobile spare parts and garments are areas where the two countries can work together.
The investment climate in Thailand has attracted many leasing companies to set up units there.