The United States and Thailand began negotiations in June 2004 for a bilateral comprehensive free trade agreement. U.S.-Thailand FTA Overview The U.S. Trade Representative`s Office has begun negotiations with Thailand for a bilateral free trade and investment agreement, the prospects of which are already highly controversial in both countries. The two countries hope to conclude the negotiations next year. The United States and Thailand have concluded five rounds of negotiations for a free trade agreement between the United States and Thailand. According to an October 2005 USTR report, positive steps have been taken on issues such as trade in services and foreign investment. The last round of discussions took place in January 2006. Negotiators had hoped to reach an agreement in 2006, but this was delayed due to a military coup in Thailand that began when Prime Minister Shinawatra visited the United States in September 2006. The United States has informed the Thai transitional government that the restoration of democracy is a precursor to the continuation of free trade negotiations. Further discussions are on hold. In the United States, the agreement would threaten the manufacture of workers who produce trucks and cars, rice, sugar, chicken and other farmers, and certain sectors of the fishing industry, particularly shrimp. On the Thai side, where an estimated 1.6% of adults are infected with HIV or AIDS, civil society groups have already begun to address the expected damage the agreement would cause to permanent access to affordable medicines for AIDS patients and other medical patients. The agreement could also face strong opposition in Thailand, as it could have implications for Thailand`s sovereignty, including the possible restructuring of Thai legislation that has traditionally restricted foreign ownership.
Thai companies that benefit from “pirated” U.S. products, such as CDs, DVDs and software, will lose under the agreement, with the United States requiring Thailand to take strict new copyright protection measures. Environmentalists fear that the free trade agreement will have an impact on Thailand`s precious natural resources, where several endangered species live. In October 2004, the U.S.-Thai Free Trade Coalition met with a delegation from the Thai Foreign Affairs Committee. Among the main concerns expressed by Thai officials about the potential agreement were: access to the U.S. market for Thai textiles, the impact of U.S. agricultural exports on Thai farmers, and free trade negotiations that required a change in existing national legislation. The groups that defend the trade and investment agreement are Unocal, General Motors and Nike.