On Monday, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said that the European Union (EU) had granted Thailand more time to end illegal fishing before reaching a decision on whether to ban fish exports from the Southeast Asian state (See: “EU Threatens Thailand With Trade Ban”).
Prawit said that the EU had given Thailand a further six months to curb illegal, underregulated, and underreported fishing (IUU), after giving Bangkok a “yellow card” or warning in April last year. His remarks came following the latest round of talks between Thai officials and the EU in Brussels last week to address concerns about Bangkok’s fishing industry, whose reputation has been tarnished with instances of human trafficking, forced labor, and violence. Countries offered a yellow card are usually required to clean up their act in six months or face a red card which would mean a trade ban.
“They have not yet upgrade us, but extended for another six months. Maintaining the same position is fine, as the problems have been accumulating for long time,” Prawit said according to Thai newspaper The Nation.
But following that, the Thai foreign ministry clarified in a statement Monday that Prawit had merely stated that the EU had not reached a decision on whether to give Thailand a red card, rather than revealing that the EU had offered Thailand a formal extension of some kind.
Reuters also reported that a spokesman for the European Commission had confirmed that no formal decision had been taken and said that the next round of talks would take place in Bangkok in July.
Speculation has been rife as to whether the EU will impose a trade ban or simply extend the time given for Bangkok to fix its illegal fishing problem. Thai officials have said that since the yellow card, Thailand has begun taking several steps to address the issue, including setting monitoring systems for fishing vessels, tightening regulations, and instituting catch limits.
But the EU has remained unconvinced by progress made thus far. Just last month, it said in a statement that dialogue with Thailand was “proving difficult” and that “there remain serious concerns” about moves Thailand is undertaking so far.
“This means that further action by the Commission cannot be ruled out,” it said.