Thailand, EU set to relaunch free trade talks: commerce minister
Negotiations for a free-trade agreement (FTA) between Thailand and the European Union could wrap up in the first quarter of this year, after both sides agreed to relaunch negotiations, Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said on Thursday.
Jurin made the announcement after meeting EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis in Brussels, where both sides said they wanted to conclude an FTA as soon as possible.
Jurin described his meeting with Dombrovskis, who is also European Commission executive vice president, as “historic”, saying it was the first time that political representatives of both sides agreed they were ready to relaunch free-trade talks.
Jurin will seek the Cabinet’s endorsement to resume trade talks. Dombrovskis will seek approval from the EU’s 27 member states.
“Both sides aim to complete the negotiations within the first quarter of this year,” Jurin said.
“[Thailand] has tried to enter into an FTA agreement with the European Union for almost 10 years,” he added, saying negotiations had never reached as far as their current level.
Negotiations for the FTA were launched in March 2013. They were put on hold the next year, following the Thai military coup in May 2014.
If the resumed talks lead to an agreement, Thailand will become the third Asean country to have an FTA with the EU, after Vietnam and Singapore.
The EU is Thailand’s fourth largest trading partner, after China, the United States, and Japan.
Last year, bilateral trade between Thailand and the EU totalled 1.3 trillion baht (US$ 41 billion), accounting for 7% of Thailand’s total trade.
Thailand’s exports to the EU totalled 843.3 billion baht last year. Key export products include computers, computer equipment and components, gems and jewelry, air-conditioners and components, rubber products, chicken, and electronic circuit boards.
Thai imports from the EU last year totalled 594.2 billion baht. Major import products include machinery and components, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, electrical machinery, and tools.