U.S. Statement at the Trade Policy Review of Thailand

Trade Policy Review of Thailand
Statement by the U.S. Representative

Geneva, November 24, 2020
As Delivered

Thank you, Chair. We welcome Thailand’s delegation today for its eighth Trade Policy Review (TPR).

Thailand is an important economic partner of the United States, and we share a long trade relationship, dating back to the 1833 U.S.-Thailand Treaty of Amity and Commerce. In 2019, U.S. goods and services two-way trade with Thailand totaled an estimated $52.7 billion. The United States continues to work closely with Thailand through our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) to enhance our bilateral trade relationship and address priority issues.

The United States commends Thailand for maintaining macro-financial stability and solid economic growth since its last TPR, though we take note of Thailand’s recent economic slowdown in 2020, which has been aggravated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States supports the Royal Thai Government’s active engagement in WTO negotiations and notifications to the WTO, as well as its efforts to enact new and amended domestic trade-related legislation and regulations.

Thailand is a significant player in global trade and is well-integrated into the trading system. In 2019, it accounted for nearly 1.3 percent of global merchandise trade. In part for this reason, we call on Thailand to no longer seek special and differential treatment in current and future WTO negotiations. By taking this step, Thailand would make a significant contribution to ensuring that the WTO remains a viable forum for meaningful trade negotiations.

As was the case during Thailand’s previous Trade Policy Reviews, we remain interested in Thailand’s plans for further customs reforms. The United States welcomes Thailand’s efforts to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement and appreciate the updates from the Royal Thai Government that it has implemented 97% of its provisions. We also recognize the efforts by Thailand to enact incremental customs reforms through the amendments to the Customs Act in 2017.

However, we remain concerned with the penalties regime of Thai Customs and the continued use of commission payments for customs officials and informants. Although the reduction in per penalty commission range and cap were an improvement, we were disappointed that the Customs Act amendments did not eliminate the use of commission payments. We would appreciate an update from Thailand’s delegation on its Government’s plans to enact further customs reforms in this area.

We also have concerns about aspects of Thailand’s regime for agriculture products and SPS measures maintained to restrict trade. For example, we are interested in better understanding the import fees and approval procedures for live animals and animal products. We would also like a better understanding of Thai standards on food safety, in addition to applications and procedures for genetically engineered products.

We applaud the efforts by the Royal Thai Government to strengthen elements of its intellectual property rights system, including: the amendment of the Trademark and Copyright Acts; the establishment of a National Committee on Intellectual Property Policy; actions to address backlogs for patent and trademark application; as well as sustained enforcement efforts to combat counterfeit and pirated goods. As Thailand works to strengthen its IPR framework, we would be interested in hearing about its plans for improvements in other areas. Also, we would appreciate updates on Thailand’s progress in amending its Patent Act and acceding to the Hague Agreement and WIPO Internet Treaties.

The United States supports Thailand’s efforts over the past decade to liberalize its telecommunications market and improvements made in implementing domestic legislation on foreign equity limitations. We encourage Thailand to revise its WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) schedule to reflect these higher foreign-equity limits, as it pledged to do in its 1997 schedule. The United States would welcome an update from Thailand on its plans to amend its GATS schedule to reflect its current level of market access.

Finally, I wish to note that the United States submitted 53 advanced written questions to the Royal Thai Government. However, we have only received replies to less than half of them – 26, and there is no indication when we will receive the remaining responses. Unfortunately, this prevents the United States from fully engaging in this TPR, as we do not have the benefit of the expected exchange of information on trade policies and may not have an opportunity to ask follow-up questions. Transparency is a cornerstone of this exercise, and an important indicator of a successful TPR. We ask that the remaining questions be answered prior to Day 2.

Nevertheless, we appreciate the opportunity provided by this meeting to discuss Thailand’s trade and investment policies. We look forward to receiving Thailand’s responses to our advanced written questions, to working together to address outstanding issues and further strengthen our bilateral relationship, and to continued our cooperation here at the WTO and in ASEAN, APEC, and other fora.

Thank you.