The Nation | January 5, 2015
Ministry pushes for FTA talks with EU
THE COMMERCE MINISTRY will continue to push for a resumption of free-trade negotiations between Thailand and the European Union this year, in order to compensate for the loss of tariff privileges in that market.
The EU is ending privileges under its Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for more than 6,200 Thai products. Nuntawan Sakuntanaga, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said that as a sustainable measure to ensure the growth of exports to Europe, Thailand needed an FTA with the EU.
The department will try to encourage the government to restart the FTA talks. If an agreement could be finalised, it would be permanently effective and should lower tariffs on more than 90 per cent of the trade in goods between Thailand and the EU.
In the meantime to offset the losses due to the GSP cancellation, the department will find new markets. Producers of such goods as electrical appliances, electronics, automobiles and parts, and processed foods will be encouraged to diversify into such countries as South Korea as well as those in Asean, the Middle East and Africa.
Producers that still rely on the EU market, mainly the garment and textile industries, will be encouraged to invest in neighbouring poorer countries that still enjoy GSP privileges.
The department has also opened an AEC Business Support Centre and an SME Supply Chain and Sourcing Solution Centre to advise and otherwise facilitate Thai enterprises that are interested in investing in or outsourcing to Asean countries.
Thai products that will face higher tariffs after the end of the EU’s GSP privileges include clothes, footwear, fruits and vegetables, processed seafood, processed meat, electrical appliances, electronics, rubber, automobiles and parts, chemical products, and beverages. Countries in Asean that still benefit from the GSP are the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. India and Pakistan are also under the system.