Boss seeks TPP alternative
Thailand will promote initiation of the Free Trade Area of Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), a new pact that covers all Asian countries, a broader area than the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), says a Thai senior official going to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec).
Winichai Chaemchaeng, vice-minister of commerce, said he will propose the FTAAP at the 22nd meeting of Apec May 17-18 in Arequipa, Peru.
"The FTAAP means a tighter economic relationship and a greater economic cooperation among Apec member countries. The FTAAP aims to create a free trade zone across the Asia-Pacific region," he said. The proposed pact would include 21 countries.
Mr Winichai said because the FTAAP includes China, it would comprise a bigger free trade zone than the TPP.
"We hope to reach an agreement for the FTAAP by this year," he said.
The FTAAP was initially suggested during the 2015 annual Apec meeting that focused on four key topics starting with enhancing regional economic integration.
Apec members account for 57% of the global economy and 40% of the world's population, with the diverse grouping including Papua New Guinea, Peru, Japan and Russia.
Mr Winichai said the idea to push ahead with the FTAAP is in line with the Thai government's policy to urge Thai businesses to benefit from e-commerce in a broader free trade zone, especially Thai investors and exporters, which are mostly small and medium-sized enterprises.
"Thailand will continue its stance of supporting free trade zones as envisioned by the World Trade Organization, as we will work to promote other kinds of trade liberalisation," he said.
Apart from the Apec meeting, Thailand is set to have bilateral trade talks with major partners, including South Korea, Japan, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and Peru to seek further economic cooperation, especially in attracting new foreign investors to Thailand.
Apec is one of Thailand's major trade partner groups, registering total trade value of US$289.9 billion in 2015, accounting for 69.5% of the country's annual total trade.
Of the total, Thailand had exports worth $146.2 billion to Apec, while Thailand imported $143.6 billion from the group.