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Free Trade Negotiations continue in Oslo

Free Trade Negotiations continue in Oslo

Thailand aims to conclude free-trade agreement (FTA) talks with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) by the first quarter of next year, according to the trade negotiations chief.

Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Department of Trade Negotiations, said Thai representatives are attending the fifth round of negotiations for the Thai-EFTA FTA in Oslo, Norway, which started on Tuesday, last week. The talks continue through Friday.

For the current round of negotiations, she said both parties are discussing outstanding issues and aim to expedite the process of reaching a joint conclusion.

The negotiations are considered to have reached the halfway point, with both sides expecting to reach an outcome by the first quarter of 2024.

This round has discussions at two levels: involving chief negotiators from both sides and sub-groups from both sides.

The Thai delegation is led by Mrs Auramon, while Markus Schlagenhof, EFTA’s spokesman and a delegate of the Federal Council for Trade Agreements at the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, is representing EFTA and serving as the head of the EFTA delegation.

The subgroups consist of 12 working groups: trade in goods; rules of origin; sanitary and phytosanitary measures; technical barriers to trade; trade in services; investment; e-commerce; government procurement; intellectual property rights; sustainable trade and development; dispute settlement; and cooperation and capacity building.

EFTA comprises four member states: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Thailand and EFTA agreed to launch negotiations over a potential FTA in June last year.

FTA negotiations with EFTA took place from 2005 to 2006, but then came to a halt.

From 2018 to 2022, the average annual trade between Thailand and EFTA amounted to US$9.85 billion a year. Last year, EFTA was Thailand’s 14th-largest trading partner. The total trade value between Thailand and EFTA tallied $1.5 billion last year, expanding 54% year-on-year.

For the first four months of this year, the total trade value between Thailand and EFTA amounted to $3.04 billion.

Thailand’s exports to EFTA totalled $1.83 billion, decreasing by 32.9% year-on-year, while Thailand’s imports from EFTA were valued at $1.2 billion, down 28.9%.

Thailand’s main exports to the region are gems and jewellery, watches and components, air conditioners and parts, travel goods, automobiles, equipment and components, processed canned seafood, electrical appliances and components, plastic products, computers and computer parts, cosmetics, soap, and skin care products.

Meanwhile, Thailand mainly imports from EFTA precious stones and jewellery, gold bars, watches and components, animal meat for consumption, pharmaceutical and medical products, fertilisers, pesticides for plant and animal control, machinery and components, scientific instruments and tools, medical equipment, and electrical machinery and components.

EFTA will release a detailed report on the outcomes of the fifth round of negotiations in the coming days, providing further insights into the advancements made in this productive exchange.

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Source 1, Source 2