ASEAN countries, with the exception of Thailand, signed an agreement with South Korea Tuesday to liberalize merchandise trade as part of plans to create a free-trade area by 2012, officials said.
World top rice exporter Thailand stayed out because it has not resolved its dispute with South Korea, which has insisted on excluding rice from the accord.
"Thailand did not sign today because of differences over rice (with South Korea). They will have to discuss further," said ASEAN Secretary General Ong Keng Yong.
At the same time, he said, the negotiations have been stalled by Thailand's political crisis, reports the AP.