Launch of FTA talks between the EU and Thailand announced, by José Ángel Rueda

The EU seems to be definitely committed to promoting worldwide free trade (and foreign direct investment) as a means to overcome the current economic crisis.

In less than one month the EU has announced the launch of (or its intention to launch) FTA talks with a number of developed and developing countries. We recently posted comments on the proposed FTAs with the United States of America[1] and Morocco[2] as well as the provisional application of an FTA with Peru.[3] In addition, on 25 February 2013 the EU confirmed its “commitment to the signing of the already initialled Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area” with Ukraine.[4] Furthermore, we cannot forget the EU Parliament’s endorsement in January 2013 of the Economic Partnership Agreement signed by the EU and Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles and Zimbabwe in 2009.[5]

Now it is time to report on the new FTA talks with Thailand. The announcement was made by José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, after official talks held in Brussels on 6 March 2013 with Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand.[6]

Mr. Barroso stressed that bilateral trade amounted to €30bn in 2011 (around €32bn in 2012)[7] and underlined EU’s role as a major investor in Thailand.[8] He declared himself “deeply convinced that this Free Trade Agreement can bring substantial benefits to our already strong trade and investment relations.”[9] As a result, we understand that the proposed FTA will contain specific provisions on investment,[10] far beyond the scarce references made thereto in the EU-Peru(-Colombia) FTA.[11] The European Commission affirmed that the first round of talks with Thailand will be held before the summer break.[12]

From the point of view of ASEAN member states, the EU has already signed an FTA with Singapore and is negotiating similar agreements with Malaysia and Vietnam,[13] that is, both developed and developing countries. In this regard, the EU acknowledged that, while pursuing said bilateral approach, its ultimate goal is an agreement with ASEAN as a whole.[14]

Finally, it is interesting to note that during the meeting in Brussels with Thai officials the EU also recognised Thai rice (Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Ronghai) as a Geographical Indication, the first ever by the EU for a product from Southeast Asia.[15]

[4] See the joint statement published after the holding of the 16th. EU-Ukraine Summit, Brussels, 25 February 2013, available at (European Union) and (official website of the President of Ukraine).

[5] “European Parliament backs EU’s first Economic Partnership Agreement with Africa”, Brussels, 17 January 2013, available at

[6] See “Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Ms Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand”, Brussels, 6 March 2013, available at

[7] See “EU and Thailand launch negotiations for Free Trade Agreement”, 6 March 2013, available at

[8] EU’s investment stocks in Thailand amounted to €14.07 bn in 2011. See supra footnote 7.

[9] See supra footnote 6.

[10] See supra footnote 7.

[11] See supra footnote 3.

[12] See supra footnote 7.

[13] See supra footnote 7.

[14] See supra footnote 7.

[15] See supra footnote 6.