In June 2022, The EFTA countries and Thailand met in Borgarnes, Iceland, to relaunch free trade negotiations. The first round of negotiations was held on 28-30 June 2022 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The negotiations towards a Free Trade Agreement with Thailand were originally launched in October 2005. Two rounds of negotiations have been held between 2005 and 2006. The negotiations were on hold from 2006 to 2022.
You can find EFTA’s objectives in the free trade negotiations with the Kingdom of Thailand in the section below.
EFTA’s objectives in the free trade negotiations with the Kingdom of Thailand
EFTA aims at concluding an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement with the Kingdom of Thailand covering the relevant fields on the free trade agenda and in line with the respective trade interests and sensitivities of all Parties. EFTA States aim at receiving at least the same treatment Thailand offers to its other trading partners. This includes going beyond existing obligations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other international agreements where appropriate and promoting preferential trade relations beneficial to all that contribute to sustainable development. These priorities are outlined below in more details.
On 20 June 2022, EFTA and Thailand officially announced the resumption of negotiations between the Parties. The negotiations were originally launched in October 2005 but were put on hold since 2006.
Bilateral merchandise trade between EFTA and Thailand amounted to EUR 2.1 billion in 2020 and EUR 2.8 billion in 2021. In 2021, imports to EFTA countries amounted to EUR 1.7 billion and exports EUR 1.2 billion.
EFTA’s key exports to Thailand include pharmaceutical products, clocks and watches, fish products and machinery.
EFTA’s key imports from Thailand are mechanical appliances, electrical machinery, clocks and watches, vehicles, precious stones and textiles.
Trade in goods
EFTA will work towards the elimination of all customs duties on non-agricultural products (i.e. industrial products, as well as fish and other marine products), as of entry into force of the agreement. For agricultural products, market access will be negotiated individually by each EFTA State and based on specific trade interests. The respective sensitivities related to domestic production and policies of the individual EFTA States and Thailand will be considered. EFTA will aim at excluding the possibility of using export duties and incorporating and building on the central GATT provisions concerning trade in goods.
Rules of origin
To ensure the smooth and correct utilisation of preferences, EFTA seeks to include modern and liberal rules of origin. EFTA aims for example at introducing self-certification for the proof of origin. EFTA also seeks cumulation possibilities both for cumulation between the parties to the agreement and the possibility to cumulate with common non-parties. For the product-specific rules, EFTA aims for simple and liberal rules to cater for modern and future productions chains for exporters on both sides.
Trade Facilitation and customs cooperation
To ease the movement of goods and reduce costs in trade between the Parties, EFTA will work for implementing expedited procedures and transparent rules for trade in goods and related services. EFTA will aim for border and customs procedures in line with or exceeding relevant international standards and agreements. EFTA will seek to build and go beyond the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation where possible to ensure rapid release of goods and effective and transparent cooperation between authorities and agencies concerned.
Sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) and technical barriers to trade (TBT)
In these fields of the free trade agreement EFTA aims at decreasing unnecessary hurdles for goods traded between the Parties. By negotiating provisions that build on the respective WTO agreements, a certain degree of harmonisation can be achieved in the long term. The provisions shall go beyond the WTO obligations as appropriate.
Based on the WTO legal framework, EFTA aims to limit the possibility for all parties to take trade remedy measures between them to prohibit anti-dumping measures and to exclude products from global safeguard measures if they do not cause or threaten to cause a serious injury to the importing Party. EFTA further seeks to include elements going beyond the WTO obligations, for notifications and pre-emptive consultations.
Trade in services
EFTA will seek to obtain market access commitments equivalent to or better than that offered to its competitors on the Thai market in all relevant sectors and modes of supply. The rules and disciplines in EFTA’s proposal are based on the WTO GATS whereby additional disciplines are sought notably in financial services, telecommunications, maritime transport, and the movement of natural persons who are temporarily supplying services covered by market access commitments.
EFTA aims at binding national treatment regarding establishment of a commercial presence in non-services sectors. It does so based on the interests and relevant policies of the Parties, keeping reservations at a minimum. The chapter largely seeks to mirror provisions for investment in services sectors provided by the Trade in Services chapter. EFTA does not negotiate investment protection provisions, which remain a prerogative of each individual EFTA State.
EFTA will seek to include provisions on e-commerce with the view to facilitate and provide basic rules for trade enabled by electronic means, considering the developments in the WTO Joint Statement Initiative on Electronic Commerce.
Intellectual property rights
EFTA’s objective is to ensure the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights by building upon and where appropriate enhancing the standards of protection provided for by the WTO TRIPS agreement and other relevant international treaties within key substantive areas of IPR.
EFTA aims to negotiate disciplines that ensure that trade liberalisation will not be impaired by anti-competitive practices of private or public undertakings that may prevent, restrict, or distort competition.
EFTA aims to facilitate access to the respective government procurement markets based on the standards of the WTO revised Agreement on Government Procurement.
Trade and sustainable development
With the view to ensure preferential trade relations that contribute to sustainable development, EFTA aims to include a dedicated chapter on trade and sustainable development in which the Parties confirm their obligations under relevant international environmental agreements and labour instruments.
The Parties shall further promote trade and investment favouring sustainable development and commit to the sustainable management of natural resources through specific provisions in areas such as forestry, biological diversity, fisheries and aquaculture, agriculture and food systems and associated trade, including a commitment to effectively implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. The chapter shall also provide the possibility to establish a panel of experts competent to issue recommendations towards the resolution of a matter regarding the implementation of the chapter.
Horizontal Issues, institutional provisions, and dispute settlement
EFTA’s proposal for a preamble (e.g. an introductory part) to the Agreement refers to general principles such as the relationship to WTO agreements and affirmation of the Parties’ commitments under relevant international instruments in the areas of human rights, labour standards and environment protection.
The agreement shall seek to establish a Joint Committee between the Parties that shall review the implementation and operation of the Agreement and to further develop and expand it as deemed appropriate. The Joint Committee shall make recommendations and take decisions by consensus. It shall be empowered to amend the annexes and appendices of the Agreement. Lastly, a procedure shall be established allowing for consultations and amicable solutions in the Joint Committee, and, for arbitration in the event of disputes which the Parties have not been able to resolve.
The agreement shall provide a framework to foster cooperation between the Parties to facilitate the implementation of the objectives of the agreement, to enhance trade and investment opportunities arising from the agreement and to contribute to sustainable development.