Thailand ready to resume EU trade talks suspended after 2014 coup: press reports

14, Jun. 2019

BANGKOK, NNA – Thailand expects to resume free trade negotiations with the European Union this year after electing a civilian government in March, according to local press reports. The talks were suspended due to the military coup in the country in 2014.

Bangkok will be ready to reopen negotiations once the new government is formed, the Nation newspaper said on Tuesday, quoting a senior trade official.

Thai lawmakers last week elected junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister, although the March 24 general election failed to deliver Prayuth’s pro-military party a majority in the lower house. The upper house is appointed by the military.

Thai and EU trade officials were scheduled to meet in Brussels this week to discuss the possibility of reopening the talks, the Nation said.

Specific details related to a potential trade deal would not be discussed at the meeting, Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Commerce Ministry’s Department of Trade Negotiations, was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Thailand is preparing for official negotiations to begin in the second half of this year, she said. The FTA talks first began in March 2013.

Two-way trade between Thailand and the EU totaled US$47.3 billion in 2018, up 6.5 percent from the previous year, according to Commerce Ministry data.

Prime Minister Prayuth is also expected to seek talks to join the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam are the Southeast Asian economies in the group.

Under Prayuth’s rule, Thai economic growth improved from around 1 percent in 2014 to a range of 3 percent to 4 percent between 2015 and 2018.

But in the January-March quarter of 2019, GDP growth decelerated to 2.8 percent on year, the slowest pace in more than four years. Exports were hurt by the global slowdown triggered by the U.S.-China trade dispute and businesses were reluctant to invest due to domestic political uncertainty.