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High hopes for India-Thai FTA

A free-trade agreement between India and Thailand will give a significant boost to bilateral trade, which could amount to more than US$10 billion (Bt342 billion) within three years of the agreement coming into force.

Speaking at a seminar organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Calcutta on Tuesday, Board of Trade of Thailand vice chairman Somkiat Anuras said annual trade between the two countries was currently about $3.4 billion.

"It will cross $4 billion by the end of this year. But we are hoping that negotiations over the FTA will be completed this month and it will be effective by the year-end. Three years after that, bilateral trade will definitely be more than $10 billion," he said.

Anuras, however, pointed out that negotiations were stuck over the number of items in the exclusion list of both countries.

"India is being more protective. We have only 312 items in the exclusion list, while India has 489. Both of us want the other to shorten the list," said Poksak Nilubol, adviser to the Thai deputy foreign minister.

India has included rubber and rubber products in the exclusion list, while Thailand has done the same with beef and textiles. "We are the largest exporter of rubber in the world and India has an advantage in textiles. These matters need to be resolved," he said.

There are also some differences over rules of origin, which require an export item to have a particular level of local content. While India wants local content to be 40 per cent, Thailand favours about 30 per cent.

A delegation from India will visit Thailand this month and hopefully the deadlock will be resolved, Poksak added.

The delegation pointed out that since the two countries signed a framework agreement on early harvest in 2003, trade had nearly doubled. However, the balance of trade has shifted in favour of Thailand over the last two years.

The Statesman,

Asia News Network


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