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End to US FTA talks won’t affect trade, says commerce chief

MCOT News, Thailand

End to US FTA talks won’t affect trade, says commerce chief

24 July 2007

BANGKOK, July 24 (TNA) - The current level of trade between the United States and Thailand will not be negatively affected if Washington ends the free trade area (FTA) negotiations with Thailand as previously reported, according to Permanent Secretary for Commerce Karun Kittisathaporn.

US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in an interview with the Singapore Straits Times published Monday that the US had given up hope for an FTA with Thailand because of the political situation since last year’s coup.

Responding to the news, Mr. Karun said the Commerce Ministry had not yet received any official notification on the matter from the US government.

"As far as I know, Washington has announced that free trade talks with Thailand were suspended due to the coup in the country on September 19 last year. The negotiations will resume when a democratic government is in place," he said.

Mr. Karun said he believed the USTR’s declaration of an end to the US-Thai FTA negotiations might stem from the fact that the designation the US Congress had given to her for FTA talks has expired. So, it is difficult if she wishes to proceed with negotiations because she had no mandate to do that.

"Although the FTA talks between the US and Thailand will end, we strongly believe it will not have an impact on the trade and investment cooperation between both countries," Mr. Karun said.

FTA talks between both countries, which began in 2003, have been dogged by controversy and demonstrations which earlier impacted the talks, particularly in regard to patent protections for US pharmaceuticals.

The United States is Thailand’s largest trading partner with two-way trade reaching more than US$30 billion dollars last year.