U.S., Thailand discuss Bangkok's interest in joining trade pact

WASHINGTON Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:16am EST

WASHINGTON Jan 17 (Reuters) - The United States and Thailand discussed Bangkok's interest in joining a free-trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region that negotiators hope to wrap up this year, the U.S. Trade Representative's office said on Thursday.

"The United States provided an update on the status of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and outlined the goals and objectives we are seeking in this agreement," the trade office said in a statement.

Thailand expressed interest in joining the nearly three-year-old TPP talks during President Barack Obama's trip to Asia shortly after he won re-election in November.

The negotiations bring together 11 countries, including Mexico and Canada, which formally participated in the talks for the first time in December.

The United States has not given a time frame for a decision on Thailand's entry, which would have to be made jointly by all current TPP members. Japan first expressed interest in 2011 in joining the talks, but still has not joined.

This week's U.S.-Thai talks took place under the two countries' bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, which provides a forum to discuss opportunities to expand trade in goods, agriculture and services and to air bilateral trade irritants.

"The United States raised concerns related to Thai import restrictions on pork products, proposed measures that would require domestic processing of credit card transactions, and regulations that would restrict foreign participation in the Thai telecommunications sector," the trade office said.