Hearings on EU FTA set for this month and next

Hearings on EU FTA set for this month and next

The Trade Negotiations Department is scheduled to hold public hearings nationwide to hear from all stakeholders throughout October and November, aiming to revive long-delayed trade talks between Thailand and the EU.

Auramon Supthaweethum, the department's director-general, said hearings were set for Oct 10 in Chon Buri for the East, Oct 22 in Chiang Mai for the North, Oct 28 in Songkhla for the South and Nov 7 in Khon Kaen for the Northeast.

Mrs Auramon said a final public hearing may be held again in Bangkok after the initial hearing took place in the capital on Sept 23.

"At the first hearing in Bangkok, most participants wanted to see the revival of Thai-EU free trade agreement (FTA) talks, claiming the pact would offer huge market opportunities for Thai products," she said.

The participants said Thailand could lose the opportunity of becoming the regional base for manufacturing, trade and investment.

Still, certain groups of participants and civil society representatives were concerned about greater market access, state procurement processes, the health system, intellectual property and the environment.

Mrs Auramon said the department explained that the negotiations needed to proceed with great caution and support mechanisms such as the formation of a revolving FTA fund to help sectors affected by trade pacts.

The EU is Thailand's fourth-largest trading partner in the world and is the No.4 investor here.

Two-way trade between Thailand and the EU totalled US$47.3 billion in 2018, accounting for 9.4% of Thailand's trade with the global market. The figure was up 6.5% from the year before.

Of the total, exports accounted for $25 billion, up 5.1% from 2017, and imports were $22.2 billion, up 8.1% from the previous year.

FTA negotiations between Thailand and the EU have been on hold since the 2014 coup and subsequent military rule. The EU protested the suspension of democracy.

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