- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Thai trade trouble

A former Thai ambassador to the United States is under intense public pressure from critics of his efforts to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the United States and is considering resigning.

Nitya Pibulsonggram, ambassador here from 1996 to 2000, has confided in close associates that he can no longer tolerate the unrelenting criticism from the Thai press and from groups opposed to free trade, a Thai source told Reuters news agency yesterday.

“So far he has not yet tendered his resignation, but he has said he is very tired not only of the negotiations but also of local media attacks on his family,” said the source, identified as an official in Thailand’s Commerce Ministry.

Mr. Pibulsonggram has been the lead Thai negotiator for the past 18 months. A sixth round of talks, which ended last week, still found the two sides divided over key issues such as protection for U.S. drug patents.

Barbara Weisel, the chief U.S. negotiator, told a teleconference with reporters in Washington that the United States is concerned that the agreement might not be reached by the spring deadline set for the end of negotiations.

“We have a significant amount of work remaining to conclude this agreement within the time frame we have set,” she said.

“We have seen some important progress in some areas, but we still face many challenges to concluding this agreement. …

“We are determined to do everything in our power to achieve this goal.”

The United States is Thailand’s biggest trade partner. Two-way trade reached $28 billion last year.

Treaty details

The United States and Greece yesterday signed documents that sets forth bilateral details of an extradition treaty reached in 2003 between Washington and the European Union.

Greek Ambassador Alexandros Mallias and Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, finalized the agreement that specifies under which conditions the two countries will comply with requests for the transfer of criminal suspects.

The Greek Justice Ministry said the document will help fight terrorism and organized crime.

The Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance Protocols provide guarantees to ensure fair trials and to allow Greece to deny extradition requests for suspects facing execution in the United States. Greece does not impose the death penalty.

The protocols also allow U.S. and Greek law-enforcement officials to form joint investigation teams and provide stronger privacy protection.

Pressure on Romania

The U.S. ambassador to Romania this week insisted that the government lift a ban on foreigners adopting Romanian children.

“The American government considers that Bucharest has made promises on the adoption of Romanian children by American families,” Ambassador Nicholas Taubman told reporters in the Romanian capital.

“These promises must be kept.”

Romania outlawed foreign adoptions last January, although couples in the United States and other countries already had applied to the government for permission to adopt Romanian children. More than 1,000 orphans or abandoned children were affected by the government’s decision.

Romania imposed a moratorium on foreign adoptions in 2001 after the European Union complained about widespread corruption in the Romanian adoption industry. Romania has applied for EU membership.

Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu cited EU concerns when he defended Romania’s law that allows only Romanian citizens to apply for adoption.

“I feel obliged to repeat that Romanian law since January 1, 2005, cannot be changed because it is perfectly suited to European requirements with a view to the superior interest of the child,” he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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