October 17,2003

Baucus Urges Free Trade Agreement with Thailand

Senator Joins Colleagues in Sending Letter to President to Encourage Support for Trade Initiative

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), today sent a letter to President Bush urging him to announce the launch of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Thailand during the President's trip there next week. The letter was  signed by an additional eight Senators, including key members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

Baucus, who has long supported FTA negotiations with Thailand, said he was optimistic the President wo uld announce Thailand as the newest FTA negotiating partner. The President istraveling to Bangkok, Thailand for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meeting on October 21-22, 2003.

“Pursuing a free trade agreement with Thailand is the right thing to do for both America and Thailand's economy," Baucus said. "Thailand is a good-d developing country that offers real commercial opportunities for American farmers, workers, and businesses."

In the past, Baucus has questioned the Administration's selection of FTA partners and urged a selection of countries that will provide a real economic benefit to our country.

"With both the World Trade Organization and the Free Trade Area of the America's talks apparently stalled for the short-term, we have to be focusing our trade policy on jobs and the economy -- and that means putting commercial considerations first when we are choosing FTA partners," Baucus said. "I appreciate the role that foreign policy plays in trade, but it can't be the sole driver of our trade policy."

Baucus has also expressed serious concern about the lack of an effective trade policy in Asia and the failure to build upon the successes of the 1990s in U.S. trade with Asia. Baucus has repeatedly suggested free trade negotiations with Thailand and other significant Asian markets as a way to address these criticisms.

While some in Congress and the Administration remain cool to the idea of negotiations with Thailand, Baucus has suggested that, "U.S. commercial interests should trump hard feelings over the collapse of the WTO talks in Cancun. Concerns with Thailand can be dealt with during the bilateral talks. There are difficult issues we’ll have to address, to be sure. But I’m confident that through a continued open dialogue and a spirit of working together, we can successfully tackle our differences in the context of the negotiations.”