Thailand and US talk trade and cooperation at APEC


The Minister of Commerce of Thailand and the United States Trade Representative met for the first time on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Manila last week and formally discussed ways to strengthen trade and relations between the two countries.

Minister of Commerce Apiradi Tantraporn and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman agreed to convene a ministerial-level meeting on the Thai-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) originally concluded in 2002 early next year. They also agreed to hold parallel talks on trade and investment cooperation as soon as the U.S. finalizes its negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the recently established 12-nation trade group led by the U.S.

The two sides also discussed the TPP, exchanging views and information. Thailand has yet to decide on whether to apply for membership in the group, with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha expressing a need for time to deliberate the matter because of opposition from some groups such as public health advocates who are concerned over some of the TPP’s provisions.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, however, has voiced strong support for Thailand joining the group. Thai membership is also supported by several leading Thai business groups, including the Federation of Thai Industries. The U.S.-ASEAN Business Council has also voiced a desire for Thailand to join the TPP.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Prayut met briefly at APEC, attending several multi-lateral sessions together. President Obama told Prime Minister Prayut that he understands that Thailand’s political situation is complicated, but that the U.S. will continue to urge Thailand to re-introduce democracy as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Prayut explained that the government is attempting to build a democracy that will be sustainable, and assured the President that his administration respects human rights. Inclusiveness and sustainability in economic terms were essential themes of this year’s APEC.

Among the 21 APEC countries, Thailand ranked seventh as a destination for investment, according to a survey of chief executive officers from the grouping conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) a global business consultancy. The survey entitled “2015 APEC CEO Survey: CEO Confidence in Asia Pacific Shaken but Strong” was released during the APEC CEO Summit.

Investors who responded to the survey noted the Kingdom’s resiliency to shocks as a positive aspect of the country and its economy. The survey asked over 800 chief executives and business leaders about their views on the prospects of APEC as a whole, and individual member countries.

“Although unresolved political factors and declining exports have weighed on recent economic activity, we believe growing demand for infrastructure, increased use of digital technology and continued foreign fund inflows will continue to help draw investments to Thailand,” said PwC Thailand Chief Executive Sira Intarakumthornchai.