Trade chief vows 2020 FTA progress

Trade chief vows 2020 FTA progress

Deals with Turkey, EU on the agenda

Thailand's trade negotiation chief vows next year will see the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the wrapping up of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Turkey, and opening FTA talks with the EU and the UK.

Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, revealed the negotiation plan for 2020, emphasising six frameworks to open new markets and reduce trade obstacles to Thai products and services.

Those frameworks are RCEP, pending FTA talks, new FTA talks, an upgrade of existing FTAs, the Joint Trade Committee meeting and multilateral trade negotiations.

"Country members of RCEP are setting up a panel to scrub the legal wording of the pact, which will meet every month," she said. "The panel will also be tasked with handling outstanding unresolved issues."

An RCEP meeting at the ministerial level is expected in the first or second quarter to follow up on progress, while seminars will be simultaneously organised in Bangkok and provinces in four regions of the country to explain the trade deal, said Mrs Auramon.

She feels confident the Thai-Turkey FTA can be finalised in 2020. The next meeting between trade negotiators is scheduled for April.

Mrs Auramon said Thailand and Pakistan have held nine rounds of bilateral FTA talks, with 98% of the pact complete. She pledged to complete this FTA in the year to come.

For new FTAs, Mrs Auramon said the department is ready to open talks with the EU, as a study and public hearings on a pact with the EU have already been completed. The first round of talks with the EU will likely happen in the first quarter next year, she said.

Thailand is expected to participate in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, Thailand-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) pact and Thailand-Eurasian Economic Union [EAEU] pact, said Mrs Auramon.

EFTA comprises four European states -- Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland -- while the EAEU consists of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

In the first 10 months of this year, Thailand's trade with 17 partners with which it has FTAs amounted to US$241 billion, with exports worth $118 billion and imports $123 billion.

The trading partners generating the highest trade value to Thailand were Asean ($90.7 billion), China ($65.2 billion), Japan ($47.7 billion), Australia ($12.2 billion) and South Korea ($11.3 billion).

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