Bilateral approach eyed for RCEP
Trade officials seek results in Vietnam
Thailand will opt for bilateral negotiations with Japan, New Zealand and India as it attempts to finish talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by November.
Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said Thailand has scheduled bilateral negotiations with Japan, New Zealand and India during the RCEP trade negotiating committee’s meeting set for Da Nang, Vietnam later this month to thrash out differences on contentious issues such as opening markets for sensitive goods and services.
Negotiators from all participating countries have concluded talks on seven articles from a total of 20, including customs and trade facilitation; state procurement; economic and technical cooperation; and SMEs.
The 13 remaining articles concern a wide range of issues such as intellectual property rights, telecommunications and market expansion for goods, services and investment.
The talks have been hampered by a lack of free trade agreements (FTAs) between some partners, such as China-Japan, India-China and India-Australia-New Zealand.
“Asean economic ministers assigned the committee at a recent meeting in Bangkok to follow up on talks in Da Nang during Sept 19-27, hoping to convince them of the flexibility and mutual benefits for all members,” Mrs Auramon said.
She said that because Thailand is the Asean chair this year, Thai negotiators will exert all effort to finish the RCEP talks, which have dragged on for seven years.
The Asean Summit is scheduled for November in Bangkok.
“The committee meeting in Da Nang will try its best to conclude the technical negotiations,” Mrs Auramon said.
The RCEP initiative was launched in November 2012 with the aim of deeper economic cooperation among 10 Asean countries and six dialogue partners, namely China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India and New Zealand.
In related news, Mrs Auramon said her department scheduled public hearings about the formation of a revolving FTA fund to help sectors that will be affected by FTAs such as the RCEP, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the Thailand-EU FTA and a potential Thailand-United Kingdom FTA.
She said the department is studying the pros and cons of participation in the CPTPP, the Thai-EU FTA and a Thai-UK FTA. The findings will be submitted to the International Economic Policy Committee chaired by the prime minister in November.
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