Thailand will not sign a free trade agreement (FTA) between the Association of South East Asian Nations and South Korea because it does not include rice, government spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee said on Tuesday.
Surapong Suebwonglee was quoted Wednesday by the local newspaper The Nation as saying that the cabinet will not allow signing of the pact due to be signed later this month, especially if South Korea does not include rice on the tariff reduction list.
The 10 members of ASEAN, which include Thailand, the world's top rice exporter, have agreed to a free trade deal with South Korea which will cut import tariffs on around 4,000 items to below 20 percent and reduce them to zero by 2009.
The agreement is scheduled to be signed at the ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur on Dec. 13-14, but South Korea insisted on maintaining rice on its sensitive list, a Thai official said.
The two-way trade between South Korea and ASEAN was worth 18.50 billion US dollars in 2004.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.