Srettha sets off for Berlin, Paris

Srettha sets off for Berlin, Paris

FTA, investment, free visas on the agenda

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin gives an interview after the Asean-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne on Wednesday. (Photo: Thai Government)
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin gives an interview after the Asean-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne on Wednesday. (Photo: Thai Government)

The government will push for a free trade agreement between Thailand and the European Union, visa exemptions for holders of Thai passports and greater cooperation in trade and investments as Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin embarks on an official visit to Germany and France.

Chai Wacharonke, a government spokesman, said that high on the agenda of the prime minister's March 7-14 visit to Germany and France are boosting investors' confidence in increasing trade and investment in Thailand, stepping up efforts to conclude the FTA agreement and pursuing talks on visa exemptions for Thai passport holders.

Sustainable economic development, clean energy and tackling environmental challenges will also be raised for discussions and Mr Srettha will stress the importance of elevating relations with Germany and France so they become strategic partners, said Mr Chai.

During the week-long visit, the PM is also scheduled to meet business leaders in the aviation, automobile, automobile parts, tourism, fashion and retail industries. He will also attend ITB Berlin 2024 and MIPIM 2024 and deliver a speech at the annual reception of the German Association for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses.

In early February, Mr Chai said that Thailand hoped to conclude an FTA with the EU next year, with the third round of talks to take place in June. Based on information from the Commerce Ministry's Department of Trade Negotiations, the EU is Thailand's fourth biggest trade partner.

Trade value stood at US$34.8 billion in the first 10 months of 2023 (around 1.2 trillion baht) with computers, gems, jewellery, air conditioners and electronic circuits the leading exports. Machinery, pharmaceutical products, electric machines and chemical products were key imports.

Thailand and the EU first launched negotiations for an FTA in 2013 which were put on hold in 2014, following the military takeover in the country.

In 2017 and 2019, in light of Thailand's advances in the democratisation process, the European Council adopted putting forward an approach of gradual re-engagement, which culminated in the signature of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in December 2022.

Regarding trade, the 2017 and 2019 council conclusions called on the European Commission to explore the possibility of resuming FTA talks with Thailand and stressed the importance of taking steps in that direction.

The 2021 EU Indo-Pacific Strategy further confirmed the EU's longstanding interest in resuming FTA negotiations with Thailand. The EU already has state-of-the-art FTAs in place with two Asean countries -- Singapore and Vietnam.

Mr Srettha kicks off his visit to Germany and France after wrapping up his trip to Australia where he attended the 2024 Asean-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne on Wednesday to celebrate 50 years since Australia became Asean's first dialogue partner.

In a media interview after the visit, Mr Srettha said he also showcased opportunities and directions for investment in Thailand and believed the visit would bring great benefits to the country and people. The PM pledged to push connectivity and the green agenda.

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