Thailand set to resume talks for FTA with Europe

The Nation | August 19, 2013

Thailand set to resume talks for FTA with Europe

Petchanet Pratruangkrai

Thailand will soon resume the long-suspended free-trade talks with the European Free Trade Association in order to ensure a level playing field with other Asean countries.

"The four country members of the EFTA are considered as the 10th-largest trading partner with Thailand. The EFTA will help promote trade and investment as well as liberalise services and technology transfers. European countries are ahead in technology development," Commerce Minister Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan said last week.

The Cabinet last Tuesday approved the restart of trade talks with EFTA.

The draft of the negotiation framework has already passed the Cabinet and a public hearing. The pact will soon be sent to Parliament for endorsement under Article 190 of the Constitution.

The four EFTA countries are Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Trade negotiations between Thailand and EFTA were last held in 2006. The pact has been stalled for more than seven years.

Many countries in ASEAN have adopted a strategy to draw foreign direct investment by having the free-trade pact. Thailand needs urgently to push the FTA with the four countries in Europe to ensure its competitiveness and draw more investment.

Singapore has already clinched a free-trade deal with EFTA. Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam are still working on one with this group.

Under the draft with Thailand, all interested parties including the state, private enterprise, and industrial, agricultural and non-governmental sectors could take part in the negotiationsdraft of the negotiation.

The Commerce Ministry has reported that EFTA is one of the high-potential markets for Thailand, as trade has been increasing each year. Average trade during the past three years was US$12.56 billion, up 37 per cent a year. Last year, two-way trade reached $13.45 billion.

The four countries in EFTA are the sixth-largest foreign investors in Thailand with combined initial capital of $2.93 billion.

source: The Nation