Thailand wants to conclude free-trade agreement (FTA) talks with the European Free Trade Association (Efta), Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by the middle of next year to improve trade and investment.
The Thai-Sri Lankan FTA is of particular interest in terms of location, as Sri Lanka is in South Asia, with links to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, and Sri Lanka has a growing economy, said Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Department of Trade Negotiations.
A Thai-Efta FTA is important for Thailand in terms of trading and sustainable development, she said. Efta comprises Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Thailand and Efta agreed to launch negotiations over a potential FTA in June last year.
FTA negotiations with Efta took place from 2005 to 2006, but then came to a halt.
In 2022, Efta was Thailand's 14th-largest trading partner. Between 2018 and 2022, average trade between Thailand and Efta tallied US$9.85 billion annually.
According to Mrs Auramon, a Thai-UAE FTA would be the first such trade deal for Thailand in the Middle East. Thailand and the UAE are scheduled to launch FTA talks on Tuesday, with a goal to conclude negotiations within six months.
The UAE is Thailand's sixth-largest global trading partner, and its top trading partner in the Middle East. In 2022, the value of trade between Thailand and the UAE amounted to $20.8 billion, an increase of 73.9% year-on-year. Thai exports were worth $3.43 billion, with the main products cars, air conditioners, parts and components, jewellery and wood. Thailand imported $17.4 billion worth of goods from the UAE including crude oil, refined oil, natural gas, other mineral products, scrap metal and manufactured products.
In addition, in the middle of next year an upgrade is expected to the Asean-Australia-New Zealand FTA, she said. As for progress on the Thai-EU FTA negotiations that were announced in March 2023, the chief negotiators on both sides are scheduled to begin the first round of talks this September in Brussels to frame the negotiations and ensure a common understanding between the two sides.