Thailand will apply for membership in CPTPP trade group

As part of its policy to expand its free trading relationships, the Thai government is preparing its application for the Kingdom to join the CPTPP trade group that includes nearly a dozen countries around the Pacific Rim, a government official said last week.

The government plans to submit the necessary documents to formally seek membership in the trade group before the end of this month ahead of a general election that is scheduled to take place, said Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department at the Commerce Ministry.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, entered into force on December 30 of last year. Thailand is one of several countries that have expressed interest in joining the pact that currently has 11 members.

The members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, most of which have already ratified the agreement.

Thailand has a solid commitment to free trade. The Kingdom has signed several bilateral free-trade agreements (FTA) and is pursuing others. It is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Free Trade Area, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which is a free trade agreement linking the ten ASEAN countries with China, Australia, India, South Korea, Japan, and New Zealand. The RCEP is not yet in force.

The countries of the CPTPP currently account for about 13 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, and it contains a market of 500 million people. The agreement is designed to cut tariffs on agricultural and industrial products, ease investment restrictions and enhance intellectual property protection.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the Kingdom’s chief economic policymaker, has long been in favor of Thailand joining the CPTPP. He ordered various ministries to study the pact and report on its costs and benefits to the country.

Auramon said a study conducted by the Ministry of Commerce concluded that membership would lead to increased trade and investment for the country while upgrading regulations and standards. It would also help cement Thailand’s position as a major manufacturing base for foreign-affiliated manufacturers.

Thailand’s economy relies heavily on exports, and increased access to foreign markets and lower or no tariffs are bound to help the country’s economy to grow even faster.