Thai economic czar shows interest in joining TPP

4Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, Thailand’s new economic czar, said last week that the country is interested in joining the United States-led Trans-Pacific Partnership but the government needs time to study the pact in detail to weigh its benefits and drawbacks for the Kingdom.

“We are very interested but we must weigh the advantages and disadvantages carefully,” Somkid told the Bangkok Post newspaper, which said his views corresponded to those of several other members of the Cabinet. The economic czar said joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would “put Thailand on [the] radar screen,’’ of the member countries of the 12-nation trade bloc.

The TPP countries command a larger share of Thailand’s trade than any other trading bloc, including the other nine countries of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Economic Community (AEC), of which Thailand is a member.

According to a study by the Thailand Development Research Institute, the Kingdom’s most prominent think tank, TPP countries account for 40 percent of Thailand’s trade, while the AEC accounts for 22 percent, China 14 percent and the European Union 9 percent.

The TPP consists of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam.

TDRI Researcher Dominique Lam wrote in a Bangkok Post opinion piece that Thailand might have been a factor in Japan’s negotiations over the TPP. She pointed out that Japan, and in particular its automobile industry, relies heavily on Thailand as a manufacturing base for its products. Unless Thailand is also a TPP member country, it complicates Japan’s position in trade with other TPP member countries.

President Barack Obama raised the possibility of Thailand joining the TPP during his meeting with then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in Bangkok in 2012. The Yingluck administration, however, was not totally receptive to the idea.

Current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has been non-committal, telling a visiting delegation from the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council in August that he needed to consider the idea carefully, but did not rule out the possibility that Thailand could join the bloc.

“I need to be careful about what I say about such a critical agreement that could make or break Thailand. All parties must be consulted, especially the Ministry of Public Health,” Prime Minister Prayut said after meeting over 60 executives from various U.S. corporations.

One of Thailand’s chief concerns about the TPP is the bloc’s rules regarding patents and royalties on pharmaceuticals. Public Health advocates believe the TPP terms will result in higher costs for vital medicines and that could cause a problem for Thailand’s universal health care system.





Thailand Focus September 21, 2015

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