India and Thailand on Thursday hoped that a comprehensive market opening bilateral trade pact will be concluded soon after completion of the next round of talks in June-July to give a further fillip to economic ties.
“Given the emerging convergence on most issues, both sides expressed hope that the negotiations be concluded soon after the next round of negotiations (for FTA) in June-July 2013 in Bangkok,” said a joint statement issued by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterpart from Thailand Yingluck Shinawatra.
The two countries have already abolished customs duties on 82 items under an ‘Early Harvest Scheme’ (EHS) launched in 2004. EHS is the initial phase of the proposed comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
The two Prime Ministers, according to the statement, re-affirmed their strong commitment to achieve a comprehensive and balanced outcome of the Thailand-India FTA negotiations. Both sides appreciated the progress made in the negotiations since the last round held in New Delhi in November 2012.
Dr. Singh said the two sides have directed ministers to quickly resolve the few outstanding issues to achieve a comprehensive and balanced FTA at the earliest.
The Prime Ministers advised their respective negotiators to show the required flexibility in concluding the long pending negotiations to give a further fillip to the bilateral trade which has shown healthy growth even during the current economic slowdown.
Over the past five years, India’s trade with the ASEAN country increased at over 15 per cent per annum. Last year, it crossed USD 8.6 billion. Both sides hoped that bilateral trade would continue to further expand for the mutual benefit and sustainable economic growth of both countries.
The two leaders underscored the need to have an institutional arrangement on the social security benefits of the workers in each other’s countries, which will facilitate labour mobility and investments between the two countries.
Both sides, the statement said, noted with satisfaction the positive discussions on Social Security Agreement and expressed the hope that this agreement would be finalised at an early date.
In this connection, they agreed to discuss a proposal for the establishment of a framework to enable regulated deployment of labour from India into the required sectors in Thailand.
The two Prime Ministers appreciated the growth in investment between Thailand and India in recent years. Last year, Thailand’s Board of Investment approved 25 Indian projects which were worth over USD 200 million. FDI inflows from Thailand to India were over USD 12 million last year.
India invited participation of the Thai private sector in manufacturing and infrastructure sectors. India expressed its interest in participating in mega transport and infrastructure development projects in Thailand.
The two also welcomed establishment of Thailand-India Business Forum with the involvement of the private sector and hoped it will expand the existing ties between private sectors in the two countries. India and Thailand agreed to provide fast track business visa service to the qualified entrepreneurs of each other’s countries, the statement added.
The two Prime Ministers emphasised the importance of enhancing connectivity between the two countries through regional cooperation and the development of road and shipping infrastructure linking Thailand and India. They welcomed the setting up of the Thailand-India Joint Working Group on Connectivity and Infrastructure.
They reaffirmed the importance of India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway Project, as it would greatly enhance the connectivity between the Mekong sub-region and India.
They also expressed their support for more air connections between the two countries. There are about 150 flights between Thailand and India operating in a week now.
Thailand invited Indian businesses to invest in the Dawei Special Economic Zone.