THE NATIONAL Legislative Assembly has approved special treatment under the World Trade Organisation’s provisions to 34 least developed countries (LDCs).
Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said Thailand would open up six of the seven service sectors requested by LDCs, but this would not affect local business operators since foreign investors could not hold more than 49 per cent of these businesses and also had to follow the relevant laws.
The six sectors that will be opened up comprise campsite provisioning, theme parks and other recreational venues, foreign-language schools, vacation and accommodation services, sea freight agents, and freight forwarders.
“The Commerce Ministry held many rounds of discussions with government, private-sector and other stakeholders and decided to grant privileges to six sectors, the exception being computerised reservation services.
“Opening up these markets will not exceed the levels stipulated in current Thai law and won’t affect Thai business operators. We don’t have to amend existing laws and regulations to accommodate the new privileges,” she said.
Off the 48 LDCs listed by the United Nations, 34 are WTO members. They include Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Haiti, Maldives, and many African countries such as Angola, Chad, Congo, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique and Uganda.
Nine LDCs that are in the process of accession to the WTO include Bhutan, Cambodia and Laos.
Apiradi said the approval of the provisions would improve LDCs’ access to Thailand’s markets as well as demonstrating Thailand’s role on the WTO stage, which would increase the country’s bargaining power in agricultural, industrial and service trade.
So far 20 countries have agreed to provide special privileges under the WTO to LDCs, including Australia, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, China and Singapore.