EC airs worries to Commerce Ministry

Delegation concerned about possible breach of WTO rules

The European Commission (EC) delegation to Thailand yesterday sought clarification from the Commerce Ministry about the Foreign Business Act (FBA) amendment and the soon-to-be approved Retail Business Act to ensure foreign investors of fair business practice.

After the meeting between the delegation and the Commerce Ministry yesterday, Commerce Minister Krirk-krai Jirapaet said the delegation had commented that the involvement of voting rights in the FBA would breach World Trade Organisation (WTO) commitments.

The delegation suggested that the ministry provide foreign investors with more detail in practice.

EC Ambassador Friedrich Hamburger expressed concern about several issues related to trade and investment facilitation for foreign enterprises.

Krirk-krai said he had insisted to the ambassador that enforcement of voting rights under the amended FBA would not breach any international commitments.

"Thailand is not bound by the WTO in the voting-right restriction. The Kingdom has full authority to impose fair practice without bias since all investors will be given the same treatment," he said.

On Tuesday the National Legislative Assembly was presented with a new draft of the FBA amendment in order to increase flexibility for foreign investors.

However, Krirk-krai said he could not comment on whether the scope of the new draft FBA was final. The government has tried to explain the changes in the draft to foreigners, he said.

Hamburger agreed with the ministry on the Retail Business Act. Krirk-krai assured him that the act would provide fair practice for all players in the retail business without bias.

The EC and Thailand have agreed to speed up the Doha round to reach a conclusion by the middle of the year on a new international treaty that would reduce tariffs and other barriers to trade and boost the global economy.

They agreed to support the opening of talks at ministerial level to stimulate trade in services, Krirk-krai said.

"Thailand wants both the European Union and the United States to minimise their individual benefits in order to create room for other developing countries," he said.

Asked about free-trade-agreement (FTA) negotiations between the European Union and Asean, Krirk-krai said Asean had agreed to start them but the EC was waiting for its member states to decide, which they should do next month.
Krirk-krai also said the ambassador had hinted that bilateral FTA talks between Thailand and the European Union would be contingent upon the latter having an elected government.

Petchanet Pratruangkrai
The Nation