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U.S. Statement at Trade Policy Review of Thailand
November 24, 2015

Statement of the U.S. Representative
As delivered by Deputy Chief of Mission, Christopher Wilson

November 24, 2015

Thank you, Chair.  The United States appreciates the opportunity to participate in Thailand’s seventh Trade Policy Review, and warmly welcomes the delegation from Bangkok led Deputy Director-General Sunanta Kangvalkulkij

Thailand is an important partner of the United States.  Our relationship dates back to 1833, when we concluded our first Treaty of Amity and Commerce.  Last year trade between us reached $45 billion, supported in part by our GSP program, of which Thailand is one of the largest beneficiaries.  Foreign investment has also grown steadily, with stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in Thailand rising to almost $12 billion in 2014, nearly a 20% rise over the previous year.

While both the Secretariat and Thai Government reports indicate a slowdown in Thailand’s economic growth and export numbers over the last couple of years, the Thai Government report highlights that it is continuing to focus on strengthening the competitiveness of its domestic economy and remains committed to regional and multilateral trade liberalization.  We support the Thai government’s commitment to increased economic integration, although we have posed some questions about specific policy issues.

As was the case during Thailand’s last Trade Policy Review, we remain interested in Thailand’s plans for further customs reform.  The Secretariat’s Report notes that, since the last review, Thailand has become a signatory to the Revised Kyoto Convention and has also further implemented other customs reforms, including implementing a single window, which will facilitate trade within ASEAN and with third countries.  We also welcome Thailand’s submission of its letter of acceptance of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.  That said, we continue to have concerns with Thailand’s customs regime, particularly its penalty and reward system, which creates conflicts of interest, provides incentives for rent-seeking, and hampers trade.  We understand that Thailand is moving forward with incremental reforms of this system, and we would appreciate an update from the Thai delegation on the government’s plans in this area.

We also have concerns about aspects of Thailand’s regime for agriculture products.  The Secretariat’s Report notes that Thailand has terminated the Rice Paddy Pledging scheme, but we understand that rice stocks are still being sold.  We remain concerned by Thailand’s use of SPS and TBT measures to restrict trade.  We have posed a number of questions regarding standards on ractopamine, requirements for beef and poultry, food safety inspection fees, and new alcohol labeling requirements, and look forward to receiving and reviewing Thailand’s responses.

We welcome the efforts by Thai authorities to strengthen elements of its intellectual property rights regime, including passing an amendment to the Customs Act that provides Thai Customs officers with ex officio authority to suspend and seize illegal goods in transit, as well as copyright law amendments to address unauthorized camcording.  As it works to strengthen its IPR framework, we would be interested in hearing about the Thai government’s plans for improvements in other areas, such as the patent backlog, and in the copyright and enforcement areas.  We also would be interested in updates on draft legislation and Thailand’s progress in acceding to the Hague Agreement and WIPO Internet Treaties.

On transparency-related issues, we note that Thailand and its trading partners would benefit from improvements to current practices.  It would be useful to get an update from Thailand on when it intends to submit notifications on measures related to agriculture, intellectual property, rules of origin, state-owned enterprises, and regional trade agreements.  We also suggest Thailand enhance its efforts to consult with stakeholders on measures that will affect them.

We very much appreciate the opportunity to participate in this meeting and discuss Thailand’s trade and investment policies.  We look forward to Thailand’s responses to our questions and to working together to address outstanding issues and to deepen our already strong bilateral relationship, as well as to work together, here at the WTO, and in ASEAN, APEC, and other fora.

Thank you.