Thailand expects to ink FTA with India in 2011

Thailand expects to ink FTA with India in 2011

New Delhi: Thailand on Tuesday said a comprehensive market-opening pact with India is expected to be concluded in 2011, giving a boost to bilateral trade, set to cross $6.5 billion this fiscal.

“We are expecting to conclude the free trade agreement (FTA) next year (2011)," Thailand deputy minister of commerce Alongkorn Ponlaboot said on the sidelines of a Ficci function here.

The two countries have already abolished duties on 82 items under an ‘Early Harvest Scheme’ (EHS), launched in 2004.

The EHS was an initial phase of the FTA, which was to be upgraded into a full-fledged arrangement for reduction and elimination of duties on most goods traded between the two countries. The FTA will also cover opening up of trade in services and investment, areas of interest to India.

The bilateral pact will be in addition to the India-Asean FTA, which was operationalised in January, 2010.

Besides the overarching FTA with 10 South-East Asian nations, India has also signed FTAs with individual Asean members like Singapore, while talks have been completed for a similar pact with Malaysia.

After crossing $4.5 billion in 2009-10, bilateral trade between India and Thailand has already reached $6 billion this fiscal.

Ponlaboot also said both sides should work together to conclude an India-Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) FTA as quickly as possible.

“My purpose to visit India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka... is to move the Bimstec FTA to the final stage. (This pact) will provide the opportunity for trade, business and investment and expand cooperation in sectors including logistics, energy (and) climate change," he said.

The BIMSTEC agreement would create employment opportunities in both countries. “So Bimstech FTA will be one of the first priority of the Thai policies...," he added.

Thailand is a member of Bimstec along with India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal.

Ponlaboot further said Thai companies would like to participate in India’s infrastructure projects and development of the northeastern region of the country.

“I would like to seek support from Indian private sector in offering great business opportunity to Thai construction companies to have a presence and operation here. We could help build up great deal of infrastructure in this ever-expanding economy," he said.

On the development of northeastern states in India, Ponlaboot said his country can help in developing road infrastructure in those states.

“Within next year, Thai airways will make a first flight to Guwahati to provide more accessibility to the people and businessmen from Thailand to the northeastern region to promote tourism," he said.

He also added that maritime logistic links between the two nations should be strengthened to increase bilateral economic engagement.