Thai-U.S. trade to expand with first TIFA meeting in 13 years

TIFA Thai-US 20 Apr2016Thailand’s Minister of Commerce led an official delegation to Washington D.C. last week to expand trade and investment cooperation and discuss the possibility of joining the Trans Pacific Partnership in the first meeting under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement in 13 years.

Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn and her missionmet with United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, and representatives of organizations and businesses such as fashion firms Michael Kors, Coach and Under Amor with an eye to persuading them to invest in manufacturing in Thailand.

Thailand is one of many countries that had reached a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States.  Apiradi said the goal of the trip was to eliminate trade barriers between the two countries and increase economic cooperation. She said that Thailand will ask the U.S. to allow more items from Thailand to be imported, including coconut water, which has been gaining in popularity with health-conscious American consumers.

Bilateral trade between Thailand and the United States was US$38 billion in 2015, with exports reaching $24 billion. The United States is Thailand’s third largest trading partner.

Thailand hopes to build on growing economic cooperation between the two countries.  Last year, the United States agreed to reinstate the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for a period of four years. Under the GSP, 3,400 Thai goods receive better tariff treatment. The GSP was allowed to expire in 2013, disappointing Thai exporters.

The minister said she expects that more Thai products will be added to the GSP list because more American companies are investing in manufacturing in Thailand. After meeting with executives from Michael Kors, Coach and Under Armor, the minister expressed optimism that they will invest or expand manufacturing in the Kingdom.

She said that her delegation also discussed the possibility of Thailand joining the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the 12-nation trade pact led by the United States.

“We have analyzed the effects and found that there are several aspects that will benefit Thailand, despite issues that have created concerns, such as that certain pharmaceutical products may be more expensive. But Thailand must adjust to it,” she told Voice of America.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to announce whether or not Thailand will seek to join the TPP after a Cabinet meeting on April 29. Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak is a strong supporter of Thailand joining, and many leading business people have voiced agreement.