Free-trade deals eyed with Turkey, Pakistan

Free-trade deals eyed with Turkey, Pakistan

THE COMMERCE MINISTRY will this week ask Cabinet to approve a plan to start bilateral free-trade negotiations with Pakistan and Turkey this year, while it says it is ready to resume free-trade talks with the European Union.

Thawatchai Sophastienphong, director-general to the ministry's Trade Negotiations Department, said a recently-completed study by the department found that inking free-trade deals with Pakistan and Turkey would promote Thailand's trade opportunities in partner countries.

"After getting approval from Cabinet, the department can proceed with negotiations with Pakistan and Turkey separately, which will place trade in goods as a priority and then expand to services and investment," he said.

Thawatchai said Turkey would be a gateway for Thailand to |penetrate European Union markets, while Thailand could be a springboard for Turkey to open trade opportunities in Asean countries.

He said Turkey, an EU Customs Union member, was strategically located, close to the Balkans and the Middle East and could also be a springboard for Thailand to enter those markets.

Pakistan would be a good source for many raw material imports, including jewellery and seafood, and it would have high demand for vehicle spare parts from Thailand.

Chutima Boonyapraphasara, permanent-secretary of the Commerce Ministry, said that the government wanted to resume FTA talks with the EU if it was ready to do so.

Chutima said that if the country resumed FTA talks with the EU, some issues might be re-examined and public understanding would need to be created by people voicing their concerns to ensure fairness for all under a Thailand-EU FTA.

She added that due to the suspended negotiations, the timeframe for the FTA's completion might need to be changed. It was originally expected to be complete by the end of this year.

She said it could benefit Thailand to carefully consider several issues covering free trade in goods, services and investment.

Thailand-EU FTA talks started in 2013, but were suspended after the second round last year when the May 22 coup occurred.

Meanwhile, Thailand is expected to finalise its comprehensive FTA pact with India this year after the two countries signed an early-harvest pact for 83 trade items in 2003.

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