Thai decision on TPP likely by end of April

4TPP1Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to announce his government’s decision on whether or not to join the United States-led Trans Pacific Partnership free trade grouping by the end of April, economic czar and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who favors joining the group, told reporters last week.

“Many investors and businesses involved in trade have been waiting for Thailand’s decision on whether to join the TPP, and the government will make a clear decision soon,” Somkid said, adding that he believes the Prime Minister will make an announcement when a government committee on economic policy meets on April 29.

Somkid urged the Ministry of Commerce to submit to the committee the results of a study it had commissioned by the Panyapiwat Institute of Management on the benefits and drawbacks of Thailand joining the TPP. The study concluded that Thailand’s economy would grow by an additional 0.77 percent of gross domestic product each year if it becomes a TPP member country.

Should the Philippines and Indonesia, sister countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, also join, the synergy effects could increase Thai economic growth by a total of 1.01 percent above normal growth rates.

The TPP would help promote growth in the automobile, electronic, computer, garment and textile sectors, according to the Institute. It would also spur faster development of the trade and service sectors as well as promote environmental protection and labor standards.

The study found the TPP would increase opportunities for Thai businesses to invest overseas, and source raw materials from other countries.

The study did, however, point out that Thailand would face challenges with tougher competition and in meeting intellectual property rights protection standards under the grouping’s regimes. The Institute said, however, that joining would increase awareness relating to those protections.

The 12 current TPP members account for 40 percent of Thailand’s trade and 45 percent of foreign direct investment in the Kingdom.

Deunden Nikomborirak, research director of the think tank Thailand Development Research Institute, urged Thailand last week to join the TPP because it has no free trade agreements with the U.S., Canada or Mexico.

While the business community strongly supports joining, several civil society groups in Thailand, and other countries, have voiced opposition. They allege that the negotiations have been secretive and the terms favor big business and multinational corporations over the interests of average citizens.

Somkid, however, was confident the Prime Minister would support joining the grouping. “Foreign investors await an official declaration of whether Thailand intends to join the TPP, and we are optimistic the meeting will allow negotiations with TPP members to start early next year,” Somkid said.