Trade pact with the US ’depends on Thailand’

Bangkok Post | 10 March 2010

Trade pact with the US ’depends on Thailand’

Nanchanok Wongsamuth and Nareerat Wiriyapong

Whether the United States will negotiate a free trade agreement with Thailand will depend on the readiness of the Thai government, says Joseph Geagea, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand.

"There is no question that President Obama’s efforts to at least start talking to a few countries in Asia about a free trade agreement are the right step. Whether Thailand is ready to engage with the United States (US) in a free trade discussion is really a question for the Thais themselves," said Mr Geagea.

He said a free trade pact would represent not only jobs for US citizens but also greater ties with Asia.

Talks for an FTA began during the administration of Thaksin Shinawatra but have been on hold ever since the 2006 coup that toppled Thaksin.

"Free trade has some implications for the local economy and I think both the US and Thailand need to be ready for those conversations," said Mr Geagea.

"Whether the Thai government is ready for that or not remains to be seen. But in the long run we do believe that free trade across the Pacific Rim in particular is a good thing for both the US and for the countries in Asia."

The US is discussing with Singapore, Brunei and Vietnam about a trans-Pacific partnership, "which is really a high-level pact that we would like other countries in Asia to subscribe to", he said.

"I think there is room for regional types of arrangements and bilateral arrangements. It’s more of a question for the Thai government itself to decide if it’s willing to engage in the type of agreements that the US is looking to have, and in the past I don’t think the readiness was there.

"But I think both bilateral and regional arrangements, and even much broader levels of arrangements are all desirable if they’re not conflicting and if they have the same higher desire of really encouraging goods to flow freely between and across borders."

He also said that Asean moving toward an economic community by 2015 is a good step.

"If Asean can move in that direction it will make its ability to participate in a broader trading pact with the US or China or anyone else much better than if you’re negotiating bilaterally," he said.
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source: Bangkok Post