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POLICY REVIEWS: SECOND PRESS RELEASE AND
Thailand: December 1999
Members were unanimous in congratulating Thailand on the fact that, notwithstanding the severity of the crisis and the consequent recession, the Government had, by and large, resisted protectionist pressures, instead taking steps to reinforce its already increasingly outward-oriented trade and investment policies so as to foster economic recovery. These steps include progressively streamlining and liberalizing Thailand's trade regime. In this regard, Members took note of Thailand's commitment to implement on time all WTO agreements, notably Customs Valuation, TRIPS and TRIMs, and expressed their confidence that the recent streamlining and computerization of customs procedures would facilitate trade...
17 December 1999
POLICY REVIEW BODY: REVIEW OF THAILAND
The Trade Policy Review Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded its first review of Thailands trade policies on 15 and 17 December 1999. The text of the Chairpersons concluding remarks is attached as a summary of the salient points which emerged during the discussion.
The review enables the TPRB to conduct a collective examination of the full range of trade policies and practices of each WTO members countries at regular periodic intervals to monitor significant trends and developments which may have an impact on the global trading system.
The review is based on two reports which are prepared respectively by the WTO Secretariat and the government under review and which cover all aspects of the countrys trade policies, including its domestics laws and regulations, the institutional framework, bilateral, regional and other preferential agreements, the wider economic needs and the external environment. A record of the discussion and the Chairpersons summing-up together with these two reports will be published in due course as the complete trade policy review of Thailand and will be available from the WTO Secretariat, Centre William Rappard, 154 rue de Lausanne, 1211 Geneva 21.
Since December 1989, the following reports have been completed: Argentina (1992 and 1999), Australia (1989, 1994 and 1998), Austria (1992), Bangladesh (1992), Benin (1997), Bolivia (1993 and 1999), Botswana (1998), Brazil (1992 and 1996), Burkina Faso (1998), Cameroon (1995), Canada (1990, 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1998), Chile (1991 and 1997), Colombia (1990 and 1996), Costa Rica (1995), C˘te dIvoire (1995), Cyprus (1997), the Czech Republic (1996), the Dominican Republic (1996), Egypt (1992 and 1999), El Salvador (1996), the European Communities (1991, 1993, 1995 and 1997), Fiji (1997), Finland (1992), Ghana (1992), Guinea (1999), Hong Kong (1990, 1994 and 1998), Hungary (1991 and 1998), Iceland (1994), India (1993 and 1998), Indonesia (1991, 1994 and 1998), Israel (1994 and 1999), Jamaica (1998), Japan (1990, 1992, 1995 and 1998), Kenya (1993), Korea, Rep. of (1992 and 1996), Lesotho (1998), Macau (1994), Malaysia (1993 and 1997), Mali (1998), Mauritius (1995), Mexico (1993 and 1997), Morocco (1989 and 1996), New Zealand (1990 and 1996), Namibia (1998), Nicaragua (1999), Nigeria (1991 and 1998), Norway (1991 and 1996), Pakistan (1995), Papua New Guinea (1999), Paraguay (1997), Peru (1994), the Philippines (1993 and 1999), Poland (1993), Romania (1992 and 1999), Senegal (1994), Singapore (1992 and
1996), Slovak Republic (1995), the Solomon Islands (1998), South Africa (1993 and 1998), Sri Lanka(1995), Swaziland (1998), Sweden (1990 and 1994), Switzerland (1991 and 1996), Thailand (1991, 1995 and 1999), Togo (1999), Trinidad and Tobago (1998), Tunisia (1994), Turkey (1994 and 1998), the United States (1989, 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1999), Uganda (1995), Uruguay (1992 and 1998), Venezuela (1996), Zambia (1996) and Zimbabwe (1994).
We have had a most interesting and timely review of Thailand's trade and foreign investment policies, which provided much insight into how Thailand has grappled with the financial crisis that erupted in 1997 and the numerous legislative and regulatory developments currently taking place. This was made possible both by the comprehensive information about recent and ongoing reforms provided by Ambassador Apiradi and her delegation, and by the high quality of the questions posed and comments made by the discussant and Members participating in this TPRB. The large number of questions and comments reflect the widespread interest of Members in recent developments in Thailand as well as the importance they attach to Thailand's role in the WTO.
Members were unanimous in congratulating Thailand on the fact that, notwithstanding the severity of the crisis and the consequent recession, the Government had, by and large, resisted protectionist pressures, instead taking steps to reinforce its already increasingly outward-oriented trade and investment policies so as to foster economic recovery. These steps include progressively streamlining and liberalizing Thailand's trade regime. In this regard, Members took note of Thailand's commitment to implement on time all WTO agreements, notably Customs Valuation, TRIPS and TRIMs, and expressed their confidence that the recent streamlining and computerization of customs procedures would facilitate trade. Moreover, Members recognised that Thai standards and regulations were now systematically based on international norms. Members also looked forward to receiving the new Anti-dumping and Countervailing Act.
On the other hand, most Members expressed concern over some recent increases in tariffs, which in several cases (including some ITA products) exceeded WTO bindings. Furthermore, they pointed out that tariffs were high by regional standards; agri-food products, fish, clothing and motor vehicles were the subject of most tariff peaks, frequently ranging to 60% or 80%. Members noted that tariffs had recently been reduced and a surcharge eliminated in the recognition that this would assist private investment and economic expansion. They called upon Thailand to reduce tariffs further, especially to bring all applied tariff rates into line with WTO commitments, and to publish a single consolidated tariff.
At the same time, Members recognized the large number of legislative changes already implemented to improve transparency and accountability as well as to ensure adequate supervision of the financial system, although they did note the persistently high level of non-performing loans. Members also expressed much interest in the new competition and foreign investment laws, and noted in particular the further opening of several sectors, notably in manufacturing and banking, to foreign investment notwithstanding the recession. The most recent economic growth indicators show that these reforms are already bearing fruit, and Members encouraged Thailand not to relax this process, now that the economy was recovering.
Members also asked for details in a number of more specific areas including:
Members appreciated the frank and comprehensive responses provided by the Thai delegation, noting in particular the assurance that ongoing reforms were designed to reduce barriers to foreign participation in the Thai economy, based on the belief that an open trade and investment regime contributed to sustainable development; the reform programme, which would not be relaxed, should add further transparency, public accountability and predictability to the business environment.
In conclusion, despite being one of the countries hardest hit by the Asian crisis, Thailand's prompt and faithful implementation of its WTO obligations together with the additional reforms it is undertaking to reinforce its outward-oriented trade and investment strategy, all demonstrate Thailand's faith, as a developing country, in the multilateral trading system and the Trade Policy Review process.