Japan-Thai pact overhaul eyed

Japan-Thai pact overhaul eyed

Review to stress technology, AI, IoT

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak (left) shakes hands with Japan's Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary. The pact with Japan is seen as vital to bringing in Japanese investment to Thailand.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak (left) shakes hands with Japan's Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary. The pact with Japan is seen as vital to bringing in Japanese investment to Thailand.

Tokyo: Japan and Thailand are set to revise a free-trade pact under the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA) to cover cooperation on innovation, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT).

According to Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who met Japan's high-ranking officials led by Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary, and Nobuo Kishi, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, the 10-year-old trade pact needs to be revised.

"Technology has changed over the last 10 years and we see it as imperative for the revision to cover more innovation, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things," he said. "Negotiations on further [tariff] reductions are continuing."

The IoT is the inter-networking of physical devices (also referred to as "connected devices" and "smart devices"), vehicles, buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data.

The JTEPA was signed in Tokyo in 2007 and came into force on Nov 1, 2007 covering trade in goods and services, rules of origin, investment and movement of people.

The agreement calls for the countries to eliminate tariffs on around 90% of trade within 10 years, but talks to extend the partnership have stalled since 2009 amid internal political problems in both countries.

Mr Somkid said the pact had been a vital tool that attracted Japanese investment to Thailand, adding that he believes the pact's revision will help strengthen cooperation between the countries.

Meanwhile, a high-level joint commission meeting yesterday agreed to tighten cooperation on seven issues, including the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), Thailand's much-touted industrial development area which covers three provinces and five priority infrastructure projects with an estimated investment cost of 1.5 trillion baht over the next five years.

At the meeting, Mr Somkid asked the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to help support the Thai Ministry of Digital Economy and Society's plan to establish an IoT centre in the EEC, starting with the automotive industry. He said it was also the first time that Japan had agreed to develop Thailand into a gateway of Japanese investment to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The countries are also committed to the Bangkok-Chiang Mai high-speed train development, building connectivity in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy and human resource development.

They are also committed to establishing an integrated data centre to push the development of an advanced information society by taking a full advantage of satellite positioning and geospatial information technology.

According to the Commerce Ministry, Thailand exported US$20.6 billion (700 billion baht) worth of exports to Japan last year, up 2.5% from a year earlier. Imports totalled $30.7 billion, down 1.79%.

For the first four months of this year, export shipments fetched $6.74 billion, down 1.5% from the same period last year, with imports totalling $10.1 billion, down 1.46%.

According to Board of Investment data, Japan was Thailand's biggest investor in 2016, followed by Singapore and China. Japan submitted 1,546 applications worth 584 billion baht in 2016.

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