Thailand and Sri Lanka are once again looking at formulating a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries.
International Trade Department’s Deputy Director General, M. Susomboon said this topic was discussed when Deputy Prime Minister, Somkid Jatusripitak visited Sri Lanka last month. He also had discussions with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in this regard.
The Thai Deputy Prime Minister also followed up the topic of a Sri Lanka Thailand FTA with Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera and International Trade Relations Minister Malik Samarawickreme.
Thailand currently has 12 FTA agreements with neighbouring countries and are actively persuing more. “We see the Sri Lankan economy picking up and it’s a gateway to the SAARC region,” he added. The Thailand India FTA to is now operational.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar too had several discussions for a FTA between the two countries but it did not materialize. “However this time around leaders of both countries are very keen to get the FTA formulated,” he said.
The world’s seventh largest cement manufacturer, Siam Cement Group Managing Director, Bunn Kasemsup said that they have nearly 100% duty when they export cement and building materials to Sri Lanka. “However Indian exports to Sri Lanka has only a 10% tax which makes us uncompetitive.”
He disclosed that their total volume of business to Sri Lanka last year was less than US$ one million while Maldives’ business is more than double than that of Sri Lanka. “Many Thai exporters like to do business with Sri Lanka but the taxes keep them away and we feel that an FTA could be the most welcome move.”
He said that subsequent to the visit of the Thai Deputy Prime Minister to Sri Lanka accompanied by a business delegation last March several joint partnership working agreements were sealed.
Two of the leading air condition manufacturers, Saijo Denki and Tazaki Air conditioning Thailand has found a Sri Lankan partner to establish a AC assembly plant in Sri Lanka. This would be for re export as well.
One of the largest trading companies in Thailand, Sahapaptan is expected to expand their food retails through John Keells Foods. Similarly Hemas Holdings have found a distributor in Thailand to distribute Hemas products to the ASEAN region.
In addition Mitr Phol Sugar of Thailand has secured a deal with a Sri Lankan company.
Meanwhile Thailand Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Napporn Adhariyavanich said several Sri Lankan and Thailand gem and jewellery firms too have come to an alliance.
“We are happy that the Sri Lanka Thailand FTA talks are on again,” the Ambassador said.