BANGKOK, THAILAND: The European Union plans to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation next year during an Asean-EU ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh, says French Ambassador to Thailand Laurent Bili.
Bili, who recently assumed the EU presidency, said the EU would be the first foreign grouping to sign the Asean-sponsored treaty. At the moment, besides Asean countries, signatories include China, India, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, France, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Under the treaty, countries agree to mutually respect the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity of all nations.
He also said that despite Thailand's political uncertainty the European Union remained keen to negotiate a bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA) with the Kingdom as a way to facilitate progress on a wider Asean-EU FTA.
"The EU is not particularly concerned about the political disorder in the Kingdom. However, we prefer stability in Thailand and believe the country will be back on track soon," said Bili.
The EU meets at least once a month to exchange views on the political situation in Thailand and review overall EU relations with the Kingdom. The EU issues regular reports to its members' capitals and sometimes suggests engaging the Thai government on particular issues, to ensure smooth business operations within the country.
He said the EU hoped a fast-track agreement on an FTA with Thailand could be wrapped up within a short period in order to facilitate trade growth between individual Asean nations and the EU.
Fast-track discussions have not yet begun, but the EU expects to start a first round of talks with the Kingdom soon. This follows slow progress in regional-pact negotiations between the two trading blocs, which began early this year and are scheduled to conclude in two years.
Fast-track discussions have been initiated by the EU in accordance with the different stages of development among Asean members. The EU hopes to move forward with talks on trade, services and investment with individual countries that are ready to enter negotiations, including Singapore, Brunei and probably Malaysia.
The next session of Asean-EU FTA talks will be held in Ha Noi from 15-17 October. EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson is expected to participate. (By PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI/ The Nation/ ANN)