BANGKOK: Thailand has called for speeding up free-trade talks with India , saying the key details of the long-awaited pact should be settled first, leaving minor contentious issues for later discussions.
Commerce minister Apiradi Tantraporn, who held talks with India’s ambassador to Thailand Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi yesterday, said, “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 both the countries have agreed to accelerate the completion of the Thai-India FTA after implementing the Early Harvest Programme back in 2004 covering 82 items.
“With disagreement on some topics, Thailand thinks both countries should finalise the agreement in some parts and continue negotiating on the remaining topics,” she said.
The minister further said that Thai firms are keen to join India’s Make in India, Smart Cities and Economic Corridor schemes as they see greater business opportunities amid the strong growth of Indian economy .
Thailand and India signed a framework agreement covering the liberalisation of trade in goods, services and investment on October 9, 2003.
It was agreed that Thailand and India would begin talks and establish a free trade agreement (FTA) by 2010.
Both the countries initially agreed to enact an early harvest scheme (EHS), meaning agreements on one or more topics must be concluded before the scheduled completion of a multi-issue round.
The agreement specified tariff reductions under the EHS for 82 items, including fruits, processed food products, gems and jewelery, iron and steel products, auto parts, electronic goods and electric appliances. Tariffs on these products were eliminated on Sept 1, 2006.
India and Thailand have also agreed to support the Asean-India FTA and the negotiation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership by this year.
Sources said Asean-India FTA in some ways had overtaken the India-Thailand FTA.
India feels Bangkok should be responsive to its demands in the FTA in services sector, the sources told PTI.
India is Thailand’s 15th-biggest trading partner and largest in South Asia . Over the last five years, annual two-way trade averaged $8.47 billion.
In 2015, two-way trade reached $7.92 billion, making up 1.9 per cent of Thailand’s exports. Thailand enjoyed a trade surplus with India of $2.67 billion last year.