Thailand and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday announced the launch of their first free trade agreement (FTA).
The agreement aims to create new opportunities for trade, services and investment between Thailand and the UAE, aiming to grow bilateral trade by 10% in the first year of the pact's implementation.
Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit made the announcement following a teleconference with UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi.
Mr Jurin said negotiations progressed rapidly following his official visit to the UAE on Feb 7.
For three months, the two parties negotiated the Thailand-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, with talks scheduled to run from May 16-18 in Dubai.
The Dubai meeting will be the first between senior government officials, led by the director-general of the Department of Trade Negotiations.
The department chief was appointed to lead the delegation in negotiations, with the aim of concluding the agreement within six months, or by the end of this year.
"If everything goes according to plan, the Thai-UAE FTA will be considered one of the fastest FTA negotiations in history. It is expected to take only nine months to complete. After the talks are concluded, both sides will spend another six months carrying out internal procedures and seeking approval from the cabinet and parliament. If parliament approves, it is expected that this FTA will be enforced around the middle of next year," said Mr Jurin.
He said once implemented, products that will benefit immediately include canned food, processed seafood, textiles, clothing, blankets, rubber products, automotive products, air conditioners, electrical appliances and leather products.
Meanwhile, Thailand's service sector will benefit from health tourism, logistics and transport.
The UAE is Thailand's sixth-largest trading partner in the global market and the number one in the Middle East.
The total value of two-way trade between Thailand and the UAE in 2022 was US$20.8 billion, increasing by 73.9% from the year before.
Exports to the UAE accounted for $3.42 billion, with key products including cars, equipment and components, air conditioning units and parts, jewellery, telecom equipment, phones, and wood.
Imports from the UAE were worth $17.4 billion, with important products such as crude oil, refined oil, natural gas, mineral ores, scrap metal and metal products, diamonds, jewellery, silver and gold bars.
This year, Thailand aims to increase exports to the UAE by 25%.