EU and Thailand cap turbulent decade with a partnership agreement                                     

The European Union (EU) has finally sealed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Thailand, its sixth with a Southeast Asian country, as both sides seek to repair relations that frayed following a military coup in Bangkok eight years ago. It may provide the needed momentum to relaunch talks over a full free trade agreement. The PCA, which is still awaiting a formal signing, improves bilateral ties on a range of issues, from human rights to counterterrorism. Brussels sees it as yet another step in its path to boosting relations with countries in Southeast Asia, an increasingly important region economically and geopolitically for the bloc. Negotiations for an EU-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (ETFTA) were launched in March 2013 but put on hold following a military coup in Bangkok in May 2014, after which bilateral relations remained frosty for several years. The coup also put the brakes on the initial PCA deal — more limited than a full free trade agreement — which had been agreed in 2013.

EFTA and Thailand accelerate free trade talks

Thailand and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) are ramping up efforts to reach a free trade agreement (FTA). After the first round of Thai-EFTA free trade agreement meetings resumed in Bangkok in June, an EFTA parliamentary committee visited Thailand from September 5-9 to further discuss economic ties between the two sides and the development of sustainable economic growth. The EFTA is an international organization that promotes economic and trade integration among its four members – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. By completing a trade deal with nations such as Thailand, the association hopes to enter new global markets. 

Indonesia Ratifies RCEP Trade Agreement

Indonesia’s parliament has approved the country’s membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact and becomes the latest country in ASEAN to join in what is the world’s largest free trade agreement. The RCEP is estimated to cover 30 percent of the global GDP of US$25.8 trillion and comprise 30 percent of the world’s population. While Indonesian exports will benefit from the reduction in tariffs between RCEP members, the country’s downstream industries are also well poised to receive greater investments. Supported by an abundance of natural resources, Indonesia is actively seeking to climb up the global value chain – transitioning from an exporter of raw commodities to a producer of high-value products.

Israel, Guatemala sign free trade agreement

Israel and Guatemala on Thursday signed a free trade agreement that will include industry, food and agriculture goods. The ministry said the agreement will come into effect once it receives final ratification in Guatemala and Israel, whose trade reached $40 million in 2021 - an 11% rise from 2020. Israeli export of goods such as rubber, plastic, chemicals and machinery make up 77% of that trade, with Guatemalan export, mainly food and produce, making up around a quarter.

India-UAE trade agreement becomes effective

A free trade agreement between India and the United Arab Emirates came into force on previous week, allowing duty-free access to UAE markets for domestic exporters in various sectors, including textiles, agriculture, dried fruits, gems and jewellery. As a symbolic gesture to implement the agreement, Commerce Minister BVR Subrahmanyam presented certificates of origin to his three exporters in the gem and jewelery industry. These shipments to Dubai are duty-free under an agreement formally called the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). This trade deal will help increase two-way trade from his current $60 billion to his $100 billion in five years. The gems and jewelery sector accounts for a sizeable portion of India’s exports to the UAE and is expected to benefit significantly from preferential tariffs granted on Indian products under the agreement. The Central Bureau of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) and the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) have issued notifications related to the implementation of the agreement from 1 May.

India, Canada to hold negotiations on trade in September

Reaffirming its commitment to an interim trade pact with India, Canada said that the next round of negotiations will be held in September. In a virtual meeting between Mary Ng, Canadian Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development, and Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs and Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, both ministers emphasised the value of advancing trade and investment relations between the two countries, said a Global Affairs Canada in a press release. Minister Ng expressed her appreciation of the spirit of cooperation and compromise that has been a hallmark of the negotiations, and reaffirmed Canada’s goal of maintaining momentum in the fourth round of negotiations, which are scheduled to take place in September. Recently, India and Canada held the fifth Ministerial Dialogue on Trade & Investment (MDTI), where Ministers agreed to formally re-launch the negotiations for India-Canada Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and also consider an Interim Agreement or Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) that could bring early commercial gains to both the countries.

South Korea, Ecuador hold new round of talks for bilateral trade deal

South Korea and Ecuador began a seventh round of talks on the formation of a bilateral free trade deal. The two nations launched negotiations for the strategic economic cooperation agreement, or SECA, a type of free trade pact, in 2016 and held five rounds of talks that year. The sixth round took place in July after a six-year hiatus. The latest round of talks will continue through Oct. 5, and they will take place virtually, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The two sides will discuss a wide range of trade issues involving manufactured goods, services and procurement, as well as ways to jointly respond to supply chain disruptions, the ministry said. The South American nation is rich in natural resources.

UK and Ukraine launch talks on digital trade agreement

The UK and Ukraine have agreed to launch talks on a new digital trade agreement as Kyiv prepares to celebrate Independence Day. UK trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan met with Ukraine’s economy minister Yuliia Svyrydenko to confirm the talks, which are centred around supporting “Ukrainian businesses by cutting red tape and helping them to trade with the UK more efficiently through technology”. The Department for International Trade (DIT) said it would be easier for British businesses to export digital services to Ukraine, after a deal was struck. The announcement comes after the UK removed all tariffs on Ukrainian exports earlier this year in the wake of Russia’s invasion. 

Ukraine: New agreements on closer cooperation between the EU and Ukraine on customs and taxation

The Commission has signed two agreements between the EU and Ukraine which pave the way for Ukraine’s participation in the EU’s Customs and Fiscalis programmes. This means that Ukraine will be able to take part in the activities of both programmes with EU Member States and other participating countries. It is a major boost for cooperation between the EU and Ukraine on customs and tax matters.  Fiscalis is the EU’s programme for cooperation in the field of taxation. Amongst other things, it allows tax administrations to work together in fighting tax fraud, evasion and aggressive tax planning. The programme also facilitates information exchange and administrative cooperation between authorities and helps to reduce administrative burdens and compliance costs for taxpayers. The Customs programme also promotes cooperation between authorities, particularly through its support for the development and operation of the central IT systems for EU customs. The programme helps customs administrations to deal more efficiently with increasing trade flows and emerging trends and technologies, while providing a better response to security threats. Ukraine’s participation in the Customs programme will also include connection to the common secure customs network (CCN/CSI), necessary for Ukraine to apply the New Computerised Transit System (NCTS).