The European Union has expressed a wish to cement its
relationship with Thailand, amid continuing concern among Thai academics
that the existing relationship structure is fraught with possibilities for
Addressing a seminar on Thai-EU trade, Friedrich
Hamburger, head of the European Commission delegation in Thailand, spoke of
the Ďextremely goodí relationship between the two areas.
Trade between Thailand and the EU was valued at around
Bt600 billion last year, making the EU one of Thailandís major trading
But over the past year, all has not been plain sailing in
trade relationships, and Thai fishermen, in particular, have been putting
pressure on the EU to return Thailandís trade privilege status under the
generalised system of preference (GSP), a move which the EU appears to have
If the move is endorsed by EU member states, Thailand
will see the return of GSP for its fisheries products, ready-made food and
beverages, rubber and plastic products, leather products, shoes, electrical
goods and canned tuna as early as September 1 this year.
But what the EU now wants, according to Hamburger, is to
strengthen its ties with Thailand to encompass new fields such as education.
The closer relationship will be exemplified later this
month when the two areas hold a joint meeting on small and medium-sized
enterprises, expected to be attended by 200-250 European and 300 Thai
The EU has also indicated that it could back down on
strict regulations concerning chicken exports, and that while it remains
concerned over avian flu, it will not use this as an obstacle to the growth
of bilateral cooperation.
But academics pointed towards new areas to branch out
into bilateral cooperation if Thailand and the EU were to avoid some of the
misunderstandings that have plagued their relationship in the past.
Dr. Somchai Pholphaswiwat, a politics lecturer at
Thammasat University, spoke of the need to expand into areas such as tourism
and the transfer of technology to Thai SMEs, while calling on the EU to
reform its common agricultural policy (CAP).
He also stressed that Thailand should allow time to catch
up with its richer EU trading partners, and that careful negotiations are
needed to reduce differences and misunderstandings. (TNA)