Thailand and the European Union have formally announced the relaunch of negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA), which had been suspended since the military coup in 2014.
Both sides aim to reach agreement on an “ambitious, modern and balanced free trade agreement, with sustainability at its core”, the European Commission said in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday.
The statement said the two sides aimed to address a wide range of issues such as: market access for goods, services, investment and government procurement; swift and effective sanitary and phyto-sanitary procedures; protection of intellectual property rights including geographical indications, and the removal of obstacles to digital trade and trade in energy and raw materials, thereby supporting digital and green transitions.
The 27-country EU is Thailand’s fourth-largest trading partner after China, the US and Japan.
FTA negotiations were originally launched in 2013 but put on hold after the 2014 coup as the EU protested against what it deemed to be the suspension of democracy. After a new constitution was approved in 2017 and elections held in 2019, engagement improved, culminating in the signing of a partnership and cooperation agreement in December last year.
In 2022, trade between Thailand and the EU was worth US$41 billion, accounting for 7% of Thailand’s total trade.
Exports to the EU totalled $22.7 billion last year, up 5.2% 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.
The EU is the third-largest investor in Thailand, representing around 10% of total foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country, and the second-largest destination of Thai FDI, accounting for nearly 14% of total Thai FDI.
The EU already has FTAs in place with two Asean countries — Singapore and Vietnam.