Dispute delays FTA talks between Thailand and Turkey

Dispute delays FTA talks between Thailand and Turkey
PHOTO: Reuters

While the ongoing dispute between Thailand and Turkey over Uighur migrants means talks will have to be delayed on a bilateral free-trade agreement, trade relations between the countries should not be affected by any short-term differences on the issue, a Thai minister said yesterday.

Deputy Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said the two countries still had every intention of starting the first round of FTA talks.

However, since the new government in Turkey is still settling in, and while the problem over Uighur migrants has only just arisen, Thailand and Turkey will need to delay initial free-trade negotiations for a few months, he said.

The first round of FTA talks had been scheduled to take place next month.

Apiradi said that the Commerce Ministry had ordered the Thai trade officer in Istanbul to closely monitor the situation on the ground.

The ministry does not expect the current tension to affect trade relations between Thailand and Turkey, while Thai businesses invested in Turkey should also be able to operate as normal, he added.

Most Thai companies with Turkish investments are in the food and agricultural industry.

Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) insists that the anti-Thai protests in Turkey over the expulsion of Uighurs from Thailand have not affected the company's businesses, as its plants are located far from Istanbul and are operating as normal, helping to feed the Turkish people.

Adirek Sripratak, president and chief executive officer, said CPF had however increased security at its facilities in order to ensure the safety of Thai staff and other employees.

The company is also closely coordinating with the Thai Embassy in Turkey to monitor and follow up on the situation.

CPF operates integrated chicken-processing businesses in Turkey, including feed meal, poultry, hen-egg and processed-food operations.

The Commerce Ministry has reported that two-way trade between Thailand and Turkey accounts for 0.3 per cent of the Kingdom's overall trade.

Bilateral trade was worth US$1.37 billion (S$1.85 billion) last year, while trade in the first five months of this year fell 14.25 per cent to US$516 million.

Last year, Thai exports to Turkey were valued at US$1.08 billion, while shipments worth US$430.6 million were made in the first five months of this year.

Imports from Turkey were worth US$283 million in 2014, and were valued at US$85.9 million in the first five months of this year.

The main Thai exports to the country are air-conditioners and parts, cars, auto parts and accessories, ethylene polymers, and rubber.

Imports from Turkey mainly comprise garments, yarns and fibres, machinery and parts, and vegetables.

Suparerk Soorangura, president of Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), warned that Thais should avoid traveling to Turkey unnecessarily due to the on-going violence there.

However, he said travel operators in Turkey had said that the situation was not too serious and that fighting took place far away from tourist attractions.

"Despite being told it is okay to travel to the country, there is no one who can ensure the safety of tourists," he said.

The head of TTAA also said that there is no large groups of Thai tourists in Turkey at the moment.

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