Free trade deals in the works with Australia, India and Eurasia
Thailand’s commitment to open and free trade and investment was underscored last week with a series of announcements that Thai officials were pursuing or expanding free trade agreements (FTAs) with Australia, India and several countries in Eurasia. Thailand’s economic success has hinged on decades of free trade and friendly investment policies.
Minister of Commerce Apiradi Tantraporn said that over the next five years Thailand will negotiate free trade deals with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Russia. All five markets are potential strong buyers of Thai-manufactured automobile parts, jewelry, canned foods, rice, rubber, and rubber products. Russia is more interested in purchasing fruit exports from Thailand. The five countries recently established the Eurasian Economic Union, with a population of over 180 million people.
Russia, however, is Thailand’s largest trading partner among the five countries, with two-way trade totaling $2.35 billion in 2015. Thailand is also Russia’s largest trading partner by far within the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The two countries recently agreed to aim for increasing bilateral trade by five times over the next five years.
The Commerce Minister added that several Thai private sector companies had met Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry to establish connections with Russian companies interested in importing food products such as chicken, tuna, and sugar from Thailand. The Chamber invited Thai businesspeople to invest in spas and hotels in Russia, the minister said.
Apiradi also said Thailand was pushing India to resolve issues that have delayed the completion of negotiations for a free trade agreement between the two nations. She held talks last with India’s ambassador to Thailand Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi.
“The Thai side first wants to settle key details of the long-awaited free-trade pact, leaving minor contentious issues for later discussion,” she said. “With disagreement on some topics, Thailand thinks both countries should finalize the agreement in some parts and continue negotiating on the remaining topics.”
The two countries have had an Early Harvest Program trade agreement covering 82 items since 2004. India is Thailand’s 15th-largest trading partner and the largest in South Asia. Over the last five years, annual two-way trade has averaged $8.47 billion.
Meanwhile, Thailand is looking expand on its free trade agreement with Australia. The agreement has been in effect since 2005, but 17 percent of Thai exports to Australia are still subjected to tariffs.
Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said Thailand will host a joint ministerial meeting with Australia sometime in the second half of this year, aiming to increase trade and investment.
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