Delegation of the European Union to Thailand

Thailand and the EU

17/05/2016 - 15:52
EU relations with Country

This page provides an outline of the relationship between the European Union (EU) and Thailand in areas such as political, economic and trade relations, financial cooperation and humanitarian aid.

Following general elections on 24 March 2019, a multi-party coalition government was sworn in on 16 July 2019. On 14 October 2019, the Foreign Affairs Council considered it appropriate for the EU to take steps towards broadening its engagement with Thailand, including on issues of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic pluralism.

Since then, work has progressed to prepare for the timely signature of the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA). The PCA could provide a comprehensive framework which would dramatically increase cooperation between the EU and Thailand. Meanwhile, steps are also being taken towards the resumption of negotiations on an ambitious and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The EU and Thailand launched negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in March 2013. Both sides want a comprehensive agreement covering subjects such as:

  • trade tariffs and non-tariff measures,
  • services,
  • investment,
  • public procurement,
  • intellectual property,
  • regulatory issues and,
  • sustainable development.

Four rounds of negotiations have taken place so far, the last being in April 2014. No further FTA rounds have been scheduled since then because of the military take-over in Thailand.

Trade between the EU27 and Thailand amounted to €33.1 billion in 2019 (approximately THB 1.2 trillion), and makes the EU the 4th largest trading partner of Thailand.

The EU is Thailand's fourth largest export market. In 2019, exports from Thailand to the EU totalled some €19.6 billion (approx. THB 685 billion).

The EU is the third largest importer to Thailand. In 2019, total imports from the EU to Thailand amounted to around €13.6 billion (approx. THB 476 billion).

Figures for 2019 show the top three imports from Thailand to the EU were:
•    Machinery and transport equipment (56.9% of total imports)
•    Miscellaneous manufactured articles (16.5%) and,
•    Food and live animals (8.5%).

The top three exports from the EU to Thailand were:
•    Machinery and transport equipment (45.9%),
•    Chemicals and related products (18.2%) and,
•    Manufactured goods (12.5%).

Cooperation between the EU and Thailand began in the 1970s with a strong focus on helping the country improve its agricultural sector. Over time, cooperation has shifted towards broader economic assistance in line with Thailand’s rapid growth.

Today’s cooperation strategy centres around the provision of technical assistance to help the country achieve its development goals – as well as to serve mutual interests.

The EU Delegation to Thailand therefore oversees a portfolio of cooperation projects in the county covering issues such as:

  • governance  
  • environment
  • health
  • higher education, and
  • technology and economic development.

An overview of the initiatives we manage is presented in this table.

Cooperation with civil society is an important part of EU-Thailand relations. NGOs, the media, academics and grassroots organisations are consulted on the direction of relations between the two parties.

The Delegation consults civil society organisations during the preparation of policy papers and before the launch of cooperation programmes. These organisations are also invited to contribute to the preparation of guidelines for calls for proposals for development projects.

The Delegation also promotes civil society engagement through the Thai-EU Policy Dialogue Support Facility. The Facility has a budget of €3.75 million for 2015-2017 on top of financing from existing programmes.

An overview of civil society programmes we manage is presented in the attached table.

The EU has an office in Bangkok, which supports all of its humanitarian projects in East and Southeast Asia – as well as the Pacific region.

EU humanitarian operations began in Thailand in 1995, and have since responded to numerous natural and man-made crises. Funding for these activities has reached almost €121 million.

Much of this aid has been channelled to help Burmese refugees living in camps along the Thai border. The EU has provided support to these people for over 20 years through the delivery of food aid, health assistance and protection services.

In response to a sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving in Thailand over the past few years, further funding was allocated in 2016 to support the United Nations’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

A total of €925 000 has also been provided to meet the humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrants who have travelled into Thailand since 2013.

In addition, EU has provided emergency relief assistance in times of natural disasters, such as in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2011 floods.

To find out more about how the EU supports refugees in Thailand, please have a look at this factsheet.

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