Department poised to kick off FTA talks with EU
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Department poised to kick off FTA talks with EU

Thailand has set its sights on kicking off free trade agreement (FTA) talks with the European Union (EU) this year and accelerating the conclusion of negotiations regarding planned FTAs with the European Free Trade Association (Efta), Canada, Turkey and Sri Lanka, according to the chief of the Trade Negotiations Department.

Director-general Auramon Suptha­weethum said her department's negotiation plans in 2023 would focus primarily on the start of Thai-EU FTA negotiations; concluding talks regarding four pending pacts with Efta, Canada, Turkey and Sri Lanka, and conducting studies on the possible benefits and impact of potential FTAs with new partners.

"Following the joint political will to pursue free trade agreement negotiations, recently agreed upon by Thailand and the EU, the Commerce Ministry is scheduled to ask for the cabinet's consent to go ahead with the FTA plan at a meeting on Feb 7," said Ms Auramon. "The talks on the Thai-EU FTA are likely to kick off in the first quarter this year."

The EU, comprising 27 member states, is Thailand's fourth-largest trading partner after China, the US and Japan.

FTA negotiations with the EU were put on hold after the 2014 coup as the EU protested against what it deemed to be the suspension of democracy.

In 2022, trade between Thailand and the EU tallied US$41 billion, accounting for 7% of Thailand's total trade.

Exports to the EU totalled $22.7 billion last year, up 5.17% from the year before. Key export products included computers, computer equipment and components, gems and jewellery, air-conditioners and components, rubber products, and electronic circuit boards.

According to Ms Auramon, the department also pledges to rev up talks on four pending FTAs and aims to complete the talks with Efta, Canada, Turkey and Sri Lanka within 2024.

Talks with those countries stalled in recent years because of the pandemic.

Thailand kicked off the first round of talks with Efta in Bangkok in June last year, in the hope that a deal could be reached within two years.

Efta comprises Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Ms Auramon said the department also vows this year to accelerate studying the benefits and impact of potential FTAs with new partners, especially the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Pacific Alliance and African countries.

The GCC is a regional, intergovernmental, political and economic union comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while the Pacific Alliance is an initiative of regional integration comprised of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

"FTAs are important tools to help raise Thailand's competitiveness amid a spate of global challenges and reduce customs tariff and non-tariff barriers," said Ms Auramon. "They also play a key part facilitating trade and upgrading Thai products to international standards and interconnect supply chains."

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