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American Shipper

USTR plans to start free-trade negotiations with Thailand

USTR plans to start free-trade negotiations with Thailand

   The Bush administration announced its intention this week to soon start free-trade negotiations with Thailand.

   President Bush indicated his interest in developing a U.S.-Thailand free-trade agreement in October.

   “We believe the United States has much to gain in pursuing a negotiation with Thailand,” said U.S. trade representative Robert B. Zoellick in a Thursday letter to Congress, a requirement under President Bush’s trade promotion authority before starting negotiations. “Thailand already is our 18th-largest trading partner with $19.7 billion in total trade during 2002.”

   Zoellick added in his letter that a U.S.-Thailand free-trade agreement would “level the playing field for U.S. exports. Many of Thailand’s products already enter the U.S. market duty free under the Generalized System of Preferences. An FTA (free-trade agreement) would make duty-free treatment reciprocal.”

   According to USTR, the United States is one of the largest suppliers of agricultural products to the Thai markets, which was the 16th-largest market for American farm exports in 2002. “Elimination of Thailand’s high duties and other barriers in the agricultural sector would create new opportunities for U.S. farmers in this major market,” Zoellick said.

   Zoellick’s letter also considered potential benefits of a free-trade agreement for U.S. industrial goods and services sectors. U.S. companies exported $5 billion in goods in 2002 and $1.1 billion in services.

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