Monday November 6, 2006
US Postpones Fta Talks With Thailand
BANGKOK, Nov 6 Asia Pulse — The United States government used a Malaysian platform Friday to warn Thailand’s interim government that reinstating democracy was a precondition for the resumption of US-Thai trade negotiations.
Karun Kittisataporn, Permanent Secretary for Commerce, responded to the continuing pressure from the US by stating that his ministry has not yet received an official letter from Washington that it would resume FTA negotiations with Thailand when an democratically-elected government is installed.
A senior US trade official said in Kuala Lumpur that America will not negotiate with the present Thai government, implying that Thailand will be left in the cold regarding its long-standing preferential trade relationships with Washington — until a democratically-elected government is in place in Bangkok.
Assistant US Trade Representative Barbara Weisel said "negotiations with Thailand have been suspended. We have said publicly that we would be interested in renewing negotiations with Thailand when a democratic government is in place."
In response to continuing pressure from the United States regarding reinstatement of ’democracy’ as a precondition of resuming the suspended Thai-US free trade area (FTA) negotiations, Mr. Karun said Thailand needs to "gather more information from every concerned parties."
In any case, the Thai government does not yet agree that the draft FTA will provide sufficient benefit to Thailand, which Mr. Karun indicated was necessary before an agreement could be signed.
There is sufficient time, he suggested, stating that there is no need to rush to the negotiating table, adding that trade and other relations between the two countries remain unchanged.
FTA negotiations between the two countries were launched by the former government of prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup on September 19. The interim government of Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has said that it would remain in office for only one year and that elections will be held next October.
But there are signs that a transition back to democracy could take longer than that.