Thai-EU FTA talks to resume this year

Thai-EU FTA talks to resume this year

Thai-EU free trade agreement (FTA) talks are expected to resume by the middle of this year, after the bloc late last year agreed to resume political contact "at all levels", more than three years after suspending them to protest the 2014 military coup.

After meeting with EU Ambassador Pirkka Tapiola Monday, Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said the two parties mutually agreed that Thailand and the EU should be able to start the negotiation's process by the middle of the year.

"At first, we have to set up a joint working group, in which the Thai side will be headed by the chief of the Trade Negotiations Department. The negotiations should start from the issues that the two sides have agreed upon, leaving contradictory or sensitive issues such as intellectual property aside."

Mr Sontirat said the EU ambassador was also informed about the EU visit schedule by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, in a bid to strengthen bilateral trade and investment.

During the EU visit, Mr Somkid is also expected to call on EU investors to expand their investment into the Thai government's flagship Eastern Economic Corridor and transport infrastructure projects.

Negotiations for a Thai-EU FTA were formally launched on March 6, 2013. The goal was a comprehensive FTA covering tariffs, non-tariff barriers and other trade-related issues such as services, investment, procurement, intellectual property, regulatory issues, competition and sustainable development.

The talks were suspended, however, after the May 22, 2014 military coup.

In June 2015, the EU said it would delay signing an agreement on closer economic and political ties and demanded a swift return to democracy.

Last December, the bloc said it had agreed to resume political contact at all levels with Thailand.

The bloc said developments in Thailand, including the adoption of a new constitution and a pledge by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to hold elections, made the resumption of ties "appropriate".

But the EU repeated its call for the restoration of full democracy and said it was still concerned about harassment of human rights activists and the curtailing of free speech.

In 2017, two-way trade between Thailand and the EU totalled US$44.3 billion (1.39 trillion baht), up 10.4% in 2016.

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