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Update: Progress on 6 Thai FTAs now under negotiation

The Nation | 11 March 2024

Update: Progress on 6 Thai FTAs now under negotiation

Thailand is negotiating 11 free trade agreements, including five related to upgrading existing FTAs along with developing six new FTAs as the kingdom aims to expand trade and investment with key trading partner countries near and distant.

According to information from the Department of Trade Negotiations, Ministry of Commerce, Thailand appears to have successfully negotiated and implemented a total of 15 FTAs with trading partners from 18 countries or territories. These include the ASEAN member countries, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, Peru, Chile, Hong Kong SAR, and Sri Lanka.

Below is an update on the progress of the FTA negotiations:

*FTA Thailand-Pakistan

Reports not that on March 17, 2024, both Thailand and Pakistan conducted a special meeting through a remote conferencing system to monitor progress and establish negotiation plans. During this meeting, both parties agreed on a work plan that would see working groups hold virtual meetings to expedite discussions on various pending issues, particularly those related to opening markets for locally originated products and customs procedures.

Furthermore, Pakistan is considering proposing a schedule for subcommittee meetings for Thailand to review, aiming to further accelerate discussions on outstanding issues.

As for the unresolved issues, the focus remains on market access. Both parties have exchanged proposals for opening up markets, specifying a total of 200 key product items. However, there remains dissatisfaction on both sides regarding certain aspects of these proposals. The negotiation process continues to seek details and agreements that are mutually acceptable.

*FTA Thailand-Turkey

Turkey has requested a suspension of the negotiations until the completion of the FTA negotiations between Thailand and the European Union (EU). Turkey is in a customs union with the EU and has committed to concluding FTA negotiations with EU partner countries after the EU’s FTA negotiations are completed.

The Thai Cabinet had previously approved a negotiation framework on July 28, 2015, aiming to create opportunities for Thailand to expand trade and investment into new markets in the Middle East. Negotiations commenced immediately, starting with the first round on July 19, 2017. Initially, the focus was on trade in goods, with subsequent rounds expected to cover trade, services and investment.

Seven rounds of negotiations have taken place, addressing issues related to market access for goods, trade remedies, rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, economic cooperation, and legal matters.

FTA Thailand-Canada

The latest information on the ASEAN-Canada Free Trade Agreement indicates that a negotiating committee has been established to develop a comprehensive trade agreement. This committee oversees the overall negotiations and has set up 19 working groups to handle specific details of the agreement. The FTA negotiations officially commenced in August 2022, and the aim is to conclude the negotiations by the year 2028.

*FTA Thailand–European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

The EFTA consists of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
In the latest progress on the Thailand-EFTA negotiations, Thailand hosted the first round of negotiations from June 28-30, 2022. The negotiations were conducted at two levels, involving discussions at the chief negotiator level and 15 subcommittees.

Subsequently, from November 1-4, 2022, the EFTA side hosted the second round of negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland. The next round is scheduled to take place in April 2024, with the goal of concluding the negotiations by 2024.

*FTA Thailand-European Union (EU)

The first round of free trade negotiations aimed at a Thailand-European agreement took place from September 18-22, 2023, in Brussels, Belgium. The negotiations were reported to be progressing well, with both sides engaging in discussions, exchanging draft proposals, and gaining a mutual understanding of each other’s policy proposals and regulations.

The second round was on January 22-26, 2024, in Bangkok. During this round, both parties delved into the details of each issue, exchanged additional proposals, and enhanced their mutual understanding.

The following schedule has been set for all groups in the upcoming activities, including data and opinion exchange, additional draft discussions, as well as interim negotiations. These activities aim to prepare for the most significant progress at the 3rd round of negotiations in Brussels. Both parties emphasised their goal to conclude the negotiations within 18 months (by the year 2025) and outlined plans for future negotiation meetings.

The 3rd round of negotiations will be hosted by the European Union in June 2024 in Brussels, with the 4th round scheduled to be hosted by Thailand in October 2024 in Bangkok.

*FTA Thailand-UAE

The free trade agreement between Thailand and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) aims to support Thailand’s exports to the entire Middle East market. In the latest negotiation meeting on February 29, 2024, both parties decided to postpone the liberalisation of trade.

The irritant here is outstanding issues that have yet to be resolved, particularly regarding the import of petrochemical products into Thailand. The UAE has a relatively low cost of petroleum production, and this may have future implications for Thailand.

The Thai side has requested that the UAE postpone the liberalisation of the petrochemical industry. It remains to be seen how the UAE will respond to this request.

 source: The Nation