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Cablegate: Thailand Ambitious On Hong Kong, but Wary

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. On November 22, Econoff met with Ms. Sirinart Chaimun,
Director of the Bureau of Multilateral Trade Negotations in
the Ministry of Commerce to discuss the RTG agenda for the
upcoming WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong. The RTG is sending a
thirty-plus person team to the Ministerial headed by Deputy
Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and Minister of Commerce
Somkid Jatusripitak.

2. Econoff briefed Sirinart on strong U.S. ambitions for
the upcoming Hong Kong Ministerial per reftel. Sirinart said
the RTG had high ambitions as well for Hong Kong and had
expected to reach full modality in both agriculture and
non-agricultural market access (NAMA). However, the RTG is
concerned by recent news of lowered expectations for Hong
Kong, and Sirinart warned that without movement on
agriculture the RTG did not expect to see movement in other
areas. She asked what the USG was prepared to do to move
agriculture talks forward and urged the USG to move further
on reducing domestic support. Sirinart noted that the RTG
also provided domestic support for agriculture but was
prepared to sacrifice their support programs for overall
success in the Doha Round on agriculture.

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3. Sirinart expressed her concern that the cotton subsidy
issue would continue to be problematic in agricultural
negotiations. Although Thailand is a net importer of cotton
and the issue is not a specific priority of theirs, the RTG
is concerned that a failure to resolve the issue would affect
overall progress in Hong Kong.

4. On market access, Sirinart said the RTG did not support
self-declaration of sensitive and special products and
supported establishment of clear criteria for choosing
sensitive products to be excluded from the tariff reduction
formula. The RTG rejects the EU proposal that would exempt
eight percent of sensitive tariff lines. RTG priorities for
market access include rice, shrimp and manioc (tapioca).

5. Sirinart said the RTG supported the Swiss formula for
NAMA, but insisted there should be separate coefficients in
the formula for developed and developing countries for
calculating reductions in tariff rates. The RTG also
supports flexibility in the structure of the tariff reduction
formula as laid out in the July 2004 framework. Sirinart
said the RTG looked forward to future modification of
anti-dumping rules but doubted that the USG would move far in
this direction.

6. On services, Sirinart said the RTG did not support the
EU's call for mandatory benchmarks for liberalization, but
would consider an alternative approach if one were offered.
Sirinart noted that the RTG had tabled a revised services
offer in Geneva in late October, but had yet to receive any
feedback on the offer.

7. Reports of "recalibrating" expectations in the WTO for
Hong Kong have confused the RTG as to how they should prepare
for the Ministerial. Sirinart mused about the plans for Hong
Kong and whether there would be negotiating groups or instead
the Ministerial would be reduced to listening to factual
reports and establishing working groups for future discussion
of the various issues. Although preferring active
negotiations, Sirinart wondered if expectations for the
Ministerial had fallen so far as to make them unlikely to

8. Sirinart appreciated hearing that the U.S. maintained
high ambitions for Hong Kong, but questioned just how far the
USG would go to make Hong Kong and the Doha Round a success
or whether the USG, too, would "recalibrate" expectations.
She expressed her concern that a failure at Hong Kong would
damage the credibility of the WTO, and that members would
turn towards negotiating bilateral agreements with their
trading partners to better achieve their trade goals.

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