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Thailand to Reduce Reliance on China, Eyeing Free Trade with EU

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Free trade talks between Thailand and the EU started in 2013 but were put on hold by the EU after the military coup. The Coup ousted the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

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The European Union has restarted talks with Thailand on a potential free trade agreement. The talks started just days after unfreezing a deadlock put in place by the previous military junta.

The resumption of trade talks comes as Thailand also seeks to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on China. Which accounted for 14 per cent of the country’s total foreign direct investment in 2018.

Sasiwat Wongsinsawat, director general of the Thai foreign ministry’s department of European affairs, held talks in Brussels on Wednesday with top EU officials in charge of Asia.

“A long but productive day in Brussels yesterday,” Pirkka Tapiola, EU ambassador to Thailand, wrote in a Twitter post. “We covered a lot of discussions on how to enhance our engagement going forward.”

The talks also underlined the EU’s interest in developing closer economic relationships with Southeast Asia. With the ultimate goal of a strategic partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. ASEAN is encompasses 10 countries in the region.

Asean as a whole also represents the EU’s third-largest trading partner outside Europe, after the US and China. With more than €237.3 billion (US$263.9 billion) of trade in goods in 2018. According to latest available statistics bilateral trade in services amounted to €85.5 billion in 2017.

Free trade talks between Thailand and the EU also started in 2013 but were put on hold by the EU after the military coup. The Coup also ousted the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

The EU said at the time that “political and civil rights and liberties in Thailand [had been] severely curtailed” after the coup.

News Source: South China Morning Post