Germany considers halting FTA negotiations with Thailand over the suppression of democracy

Germany is considering a proposal to halt free trade talks between the European Union and Thailand due to the Thai government’s undemocratic practices, according to debate within the Bundestag this week.

To halt free trade negotiations, Germany would have to convince other European Union nations to follow suit.

Frithjof Schmidt, a German MP from the Green Party, said in the Bundestag that the Thai “military junta” decision to dissolve the Future Forward Party, which was the country’s second-biggest opposition party, was undemocratic.

“Some time ago, the European Union suspended negotiations over the free trade agreement because of the junta’s behavior,” he said while referring to the EU’s decision to end free trade talks with Thailand after the coup of 2014.    

“Are you willing to commit to the European Council to suspend these negotiations again as long as the junta still blocks the return to democracy in Thailand?” he asked. 

The talks resumed after the elections were held in Thailand last year but the progress of the trade deal is now in doubt as Heiko Maas, the German Foreign Minister, told the Bundestag that all options were open.

“I consider this to be an option that we will keep this open with the European Union,” he said.

“But, I also think it is correct to engage in a dialogue with the Thai side in this matter,” he added.

The EU is Thailand’s fifth-largest trading partner after ASEAN, China, Japan, and the US.

Trade between Thailand and the EU reached US$44.5 billion in 2019, accounting for 9.2 per cent of the country’s total trade. Of that, exports accounted for $23.58 billion and imports were worth $20.91 billion.

The EU has last year signed an FTA with Vietnam which came into effect in August 2019 and it became only the second ASEAN country, after Singapore, to have signed a trade pact with the EU. 

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