Bangkok Post | 9 July 2008
Wiroon: Thai-Indian FTA set to expand
CHENNAI, INDIA : Thailand hopes to ratify a full free-trade agreement with India within this year if the political situations in the two countries don’t change, according to Deputy Commerce Minister Wiroon Techapaiboon.
’’We hope to sign the agreement with India this year to extend our bilateral free trade to cover 5,000 to 6,000 products from 82 items currently,’’ said Mr Wiroon, who presided over ’’Destination Thailand 2008’’ in Chennai last weekend. ’’But that depends on Thai and Indian politics remaining unaffected.’’
The two countries adopted a partial free-trade agreement (FTA) called the early harvest scheme in 2003, under which tariffs on 82 items were eliminated. The scheme played a key part in driving bilateral trade last year to $4.7 billion compared with $3.4 billion a year earlier.
In 2007, Thailand’s shipments to India were valued at $2.66 billion, mostly for steel products, plastic pellets, television sets, automobiles, rubber, machinery and computer parts.
Imports were worth $2.06 billion, mostly diamonds, gems and jewellery, gold bullion, finished oil, chemicals, electrical appliances and medicines.
The two countries have set a target of $10 billion in bilateral trade by 2010 once the free trade deal is ratified.
India’s tariffs on imported products from Thailand now average 30%, against 10% for Thai tariffs on Indian goods.
Mr Wiroon said Thailand also wanted India to become distribution hub for Thai products bound for Africa.
However, he said export obstacles were rife in India, particularly tardy import procedures and transparency issues.
In a bid to raise awareness of bilateral trade and investment between the two countries, Thailand plans to stage two more Destination Thailand 2008 events in Mumbai and Hyderabad in September.
Anusorn Muttaraid, chairman of the Thailand-India Business Council, said Thai businesses such as the CP Group and his company, Delta Electronics (Thailand), now had a growing presence in India in agriculture and electronics.
The private sector set up the Thailand-India Business Council late last year and is exploring opportunities to expand trade and investment among small and medium-sized enterprises, he said.