In the heart of Seoul, the thunder of diplomatic conversation resonates as representatives from South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy navigate the complexities of a possible Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Thailand. Spearheading Thailand’s voice in these potentially transformative negotiations is esteemed trade representative Nalinee Taveesin, who avers that the objective is to position Thailand as a pivotal production hub for South Korea’s burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) industry.
A recent meeting between Ms Nalinee and Trade Minister Ahn Deok Guen in the bustling South Korean capital gestated the possibility of this major bilateral partnership. The path to their meeting was paved when Mr Ahn met with Thailand’s Deputy Commerce Minister Napintorn Srisunpang at the 2023 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit held in the dynamic city of San Francisco. With the backdrop of the summit, the duo deliberated on an EPA, culminating in the arrangement of a subsequent meeting in Seoul with Ms Nalinee.
Thailand and South Korea’s EPA discussions have been nurtured by a shared interest in cementing regional economic bonds. Neither party has taken strides towards designating a free-trade area; however, they both have expressed agreement on regional cooperation. Joint commitment to existing platforms, such as the Asean-Korea Free Trade Agreement (AKFTA) and the ambitiously expansive Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), have formed a foundation on which these cooperative dialogues stand.
With hopes high for the successful execution for the EPA, Ms Nalinee elucidates the potentially wide-ranging benefits of such an agreement. Import taxes are predicted to witness considerable reductions, resulting in a decline in trade barriers. Breaking down these barriers would undeniably ameliorate supply chains and goods transport dynamics, especially those concerning the motor industry.
Korean-based automakers like the renowned Hyundai and Kia are already positioning their chess pieces, looking for avenues to augment their presence in Thailand. This includes intentions to set up an EV production base in the kingdom, which could significantly boost the automobile industry in Thailand.
In order to facilitate this EPA agreement, there are plans for parallel dialogues with the private sector. Extensive negotiations on the EPA will continue at the 13th Joint Trade Committee (JTC), which hosts representatives from both Thailand and South Korea, slated for the upcoming year. The JTC’s primary purpose is to iron out trade barriers and streamline commerce flows, a task overseen by the Commerce Ministry and South Korea’s Ministry for Trade.
This prospective partnership underscored by the EPA agreement is a testament to South Korea and Thailand’s vision for a more interconnected and efficient future. Economic advancements, industrial development, and mutual growth await them as they sail into this new era of collaboration.