EU to resume trade talks with Thailand

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The EU has said it is open to resuming trade negotiations with Thailand following the end of military rule.

The Council of the European Union has said it is to resume talks with Thailand in the hope of drawing up a new free trade agreement with the Asian nation.

Negotiations had been suspended in 2014 following a military coup there, but a coalition of parties has now formed a government and brought military rule to an end.

In a statement released this week, the council said it "now considers it appropriate for the EU to take steps towards broadening its engagement with Thailand".

Talks will include preparations to sign a Partnership and Co-operation Agreement with south-east Asia's second-largest economy, as well as steps towards "an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement".

Trade between the EU and Thailand was valued at around €38 billion last year, according to figures from the European Commission.

The EU is Thailand's third-largest export market - after China and Japan - to which it mostly sends goods including machinery and transport equipment.

Meanwhile, as one of the ten members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand is the EU's 25th-largest trading partner worldwide and its fourth-largest in the Asian bloc.

The EU is keen to forge stronger ties with ASEAN nations and, with a population of more than 69 million, Thailand is sure to be a key part of this goal.

FTAs have already been secured with Singapore and Vietnam, and stakeholders in Thailand have been expressing their eagerness to ensure the same thing can be achieved with their country.

In July, the Trade Policy and Strategy Office warned automotive suppliers and tech-component assemblers may be forced to move their operations to Vietnam to benefit from tariff-free exports to European markets unless a deal can be reached.

The Bangkok-based Kasikorn Research Center also said Thailand could miss out on "an opportunity to upgrade its manufacturing industry towards the technologies of the future" if an EU-Thai FTA cannot be negotiated within a reasonable timeframe.