Thai PM pushes free trade deal with Swiss

Thai PM pushes free trade deal with Swiss
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Photo: AFP
Thailand is moving closer to a free trade agreement with Switzerland and the other countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the Thai prime minister said on Tuesday.

In her first official visit to Switzerland, Yingluck Shinawatra met in Bern with Swiss President Ueli Maurer, Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Burkhalter and Economy Minister Johann Schnedier-Ammann.

Bangkok is in the “last phase of an internal process” before negotiations with EFTA, Shinawatra said, according to a report from the ATS news agency.

Switzerland is the biggest commercial partner with Thailand and the free trade deal will permit already good trade ties to become more dynamic, she said.

Other members of EFTA include Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Exploratory talks were first held between Thailand and EFTA back in 2006.

“As a major member of the association, Switzerland hopes to pursue these discussions to the point where they are concluded,” Maurer said, ATS reported.

Relations between Switzerland and Thailand are concentrated on trade and tourism.

In 2011, Switzerland was Thailand’s 11th most important trading partner and the biggest in Europe, according to the federal department of foreign affairs (FDFA).

Swiss consumer and luxury goods, as well as machinery and precision instruments for the manufacturing industry are among the items exported.

Switzerland is also the most important European destination for tourists from Thailand, the FDFA said.

In 2010, 51,907 Thai citizens visited Switzerland, booking 85,851 overnight stays.

Thailand is also a popular tourist destination for Swiss and at the end of 2011 almost 7,000 Swiss nationals were living in the Southeast Asian country.

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