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Negotiating team leaders after their historic trade agreement on Phuket

Phuket Deal Spurs Free Trade for Seven Nations

Thursday, June 4, 2009
A FREE TRADE agreement involving India, Thailand and five other nations around the region has been approved in a historic deal concluded by negotiators yesterday on Phuket.

With India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan as signatories, the Bimstec agreement concludes 18 rounds of talks that coincidentally also began on Phuket, in 2004.

Initially, about 10 percent of the trade between the seven countries will be placed in a ''tariff-free'' basket once trade ministers formally approve the deal, probably before year's end.

More than $3 billion in trade will eventually be involved, with regional growth for the seven countries likely to accelerate because of ease of access to raw materials and markets.

Thailand's Deputy Director-General of the Department of Trade Negotiations, Chana Kanaratanadilok, hailed the success of the Phuket talks as a breakthrough for the entire region.

''I think everyone is happy,'' he said. ''We have been negotiating for quite some time. Now everyone has agreed on the arrangements.

''Phuket gave us a start, now it has given us success, too.''

The Joint Secretary of India's Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Amarendra Khatua, said he hoped the arrangement would lead on to more negotiations, perhaps involving services.

About 10 percent of 5000 items subject to customs or other tariffs, worth $350 million, will be selected by individual countries in the first phase. Other protected goods will come on-stream gradually.

The economic deal complements existing multilateral and bilateral arrangements.

With Thailand and Myanmar as existing members of Asean, the trade arrangement offers the growing involvement of neighboring countries in South Asia.

Mr Khatua said: ''Perhaps we can look forward next to Bimstec Plus. There is lots of scope. This is a kind of stimulus.''

India, Sri Lanka and Thailand are seen as more developed countries, with Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh considered lesser developed countries.

Thailand and India already have ''quite substantial'' bilateral trade, with more now likely.

Bilateral barrier-busting trade agreements have been occurring throughout the Asia-Pacific region with increasing frequency.

Several negotiating teams were keen for the latest round of talks to be held on Phuket, with the holiday island atmosphere being credited with making an agreement more certain.

Thailand, geographically poised between the world's two biggest markets, India and China, seems likely eventually to benefit from the growth of both.

The Bimstec meeting took place over three days at the Millennium Resort Patong. An official announcement of the trade deal is anticipated later this week.

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If Thailand really wants to see its economy grow and prosper, its people educated and healthcare increased then do the only sensible thing ... Open up to free trade across the globe. Cut out the ridiculous laws prohibiting foreigner from owning their own businesses and allow for title deeds of land to be owned outright, in their own names, by foreigners. Malaysia had done it and see how that's grown.

As far a trading with Myanmar, that's despicable. With their violations regarding human rights they shouldn't even have been invited to the table.

Posted by Noddy on June 4, 2009 20:11

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