Commerce Ministry to focus more on wrapping up FTAs next year


The Commerce Ministry is pushing for negotiations to conclude more free trade agreements (FTAs) in 2024, Deputy Commerce Minister Napintorn Srisunpang said.

He said the ministry would speed up the closing of one deal and work towards concluding two more by 2025. It would initiate negotiations for two new bilateral FTAs — with South Korea and Bhutan.

In the past year, the Commerce Ministry had managed its affairs in line with the policies of the ministry without any major push as it happened to be an election year. The ministry’s focus in 2023 was primarily on exports, inflation, and price management.

Within a short period of three months after taking up the portfolio, Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai has announced policies aimed at reducing the cost of living, addressing various issues, and fostering relationships with trading partners, notably China. However, the highlight was the adjustment in sugar prices.

The ministry’s goals for 2024 include promoting year-long distribution of affordable products, aiming to collectively reduce the cost of living by 30 billion baht, potentially stimulating the economy by around 150 billion baht. Furthermore, the focus will be on achieving a 2% increase in exports, ensuring fair pricing for consumers and producers, which remains a central task, Napintorn said.

Given the importance of exports in advancing the Thai economy, efforts to collaborate with the private sector for export promotion and trade barrier reduction are crucial, he said. One of the vital tools amid external risk factors is negotiating FTAs. This is considered a key policy of the Srettha Thavisin government. The prime minister has repeatedly pointed out Thailand's limited engagement in FTA negotiations, leaving the country lagging significantly behind its competitors. Hence, this issue would be another primary focus for the government in dealing with various countries, he said.


Currently, Thailand has 14 active FTAs — bilateral and multilateral — with 18 countries, including 9 ASEAN nations, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, Peru, Chile, and Hong Kong.

Napintorn said he had instructed the Department of Trade Negotiations to accelerate FTA negotiations to expand Thailand's trading markets, especially with major trading partners with whom Thailand does not yet have FTAs.

The aim is to elevate and improve existing agreements, initiate new negotiations, and leverage the benefits from existing FTAs for Thailand's exports and create opportunities for Thai entrepreneurs, he said.