Bangkok Post | 24 May 2006
STALLED FTA TALKS LEGAL PROBLEM
US won’t negotiate with caretaker govt
The United States is ready to resume negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) with Thailand when the political situation here is clearer, US ambassador Ralph Boyce said yesterday. He said the US has not lost interest in an FTA with Thailand, but Washington cannot negotiate a deal with a caretaker government, Mr Boyce said in an interview.
’’There’s a legal problem,’’ he said. The ambassador was responding to caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak’s call to resume the stalled talks.
’’We are willing to pursue [the talks] if the two sides agree, in whatever form — whether to proceed on the current structure... or in other forms. The US is open to that,’’ the ambassador said. He said Washington wants to push ahead with FTA talks despite a congressional election campaign in the US this year and the Trade Promotion Authority Act coming up for renewal next year.
Mr Boyce said Mr Somkid, who is also commerce minister, had a solid knowledge of the talks, but the US is still waiting to see who will lead them and how they will be re-structured.
Washington has indicated the trade pact is not likely to be concluded this year, as was hoped after the Chiang Mai talks last January, but Washington was not contemplating giving up, he said.
Deputy US Trade Representative Karan Bhatia, before leaving for a trip to Taiwan, India and Vietnam yesterday, said he was awaiting formal communications from the Thai side.
Mr Somkid early last month instructed Permanent Secretary for Commerce Karun Kittisataporn, who headed the Thai negotiation team, to suspend discussions with US officials until a new Thai government is formed. But he has asked for a review of the talks in light of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s recent return to office after a 50-day leave.
Ex-senators and civic groups are to submit a petition to the parliamentary ombudsman today asking the Constitution Court to rule on whether the Thaksin government violated the charter’s article 224 by failing to consult parliament before going ahead with FTA talks with the US.