By Petchanet Pratruangkrai
Director-general Srirat Rastapana said Thailand must move forward on these two fronts as the US and the EU face slowing growth rates. Establishing free-trade pacts will help lock in tariff privileges in these markets and ensure competitiveness, Srirat said.
The US is already negotiating with eight potential TPP members: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The US has trade agreements with several of these nations and is interested in reducing tariffs with other countries. If those countries succeed in their TPP negotiations, Thailand could be left
behind and lose competitiveness in terms of accessing the US market, Srirat said.
A draft free-trade agreement (FTA) with the EU, meanwhile, was proposed by the previous government, but must be re-submitted to the Cabinet and ratified by Parliament again due to the change in administration.
Paiboon Ponsuwanna, chairman of the Thai National Shippers Council, said exporters support trade liberalisation, in particular the Thai-EU FTA, as the global economic downturn is expected to see trade growth slow down.
There are positive and negative impacts for the country, so the government should carefully weigh the benefits and disadvantages when negotiating such deals with trading partners, he said.
The EU buys 9.7 per cent of the Kingdom's exports, so liberalisation would create great benefits for Thai exporters in terms of the lowering both tariff and non-tariff barriers, Paiboon said.
Successful talks would also mean greater Thai export competitiveness, while failure could see the country fall behind other Asean members pursuing bilateral deals with the EU, he said.
Singapore and Vietnam have already started negotiations with the EU, while Malaysia is studying the benefits of an FTA with the bloc.