On May 31, 2016, FTA Watch and five civil society organizations, who monitored impact of free trade agreements’ negotiations, had a meeting with Mrs. Apiradi Tantraporn, the Minister of Commerce about decision to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) at the Office of Permanent Secretary Ministry of Commerce.
FTA Watch and the civil society organizations had the following recommendations to the Thai government:
1. Ministry of Commerce and relevant ministries, especially Ministry of Public Health, should disclose information in studies that the ministries commissioned institutes to conduct studies, including numeral data, regarding pros and cons of the TPP affecting all the sectors, to the public and open a chance for the society and the academic community to verify the information presented in those studies,
2. The government should organize an open debate about the information in the studies on expected benefits and adverse impact that Thailand will experience, if it joins the TPP, in order to have comments, particularly to indentify gaps in information necessary for decision making whether to join the TPP,
3. The government has to declare their state of position on a dramatic increase in health budget if the government decides to join the TPP. Due to the TPP’s obligations, the country has to accept the market exclusivity on medicines with additional monopoly of 1-10 years. In comparison with information of a study conducted by Panyapiwat Institute of Management commissioned by Ministry of Commerce that claims Thailand’s GDP will increase 0.77% if joining the TPP, Ministry of Public Health estimates that Thailand has to allocate budget of 2,835 – 288,266 million Baht each year to adsorb an increase in annual medicine expenditures. The national health insurance system, taking care of over 48 million citizens, will be inevitably affected. How will the government prepare for or be responsible for the impact and is it possible that the government will be able to remedy?
4. The government should conduct “Regulatory Impact Assessment” of the TPP as the Law Reform Commission of Thailand recommended. Have the government conducted a study to understand precisely about impact of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)? ISDS is potentially a serious problem, outstandingly to legislation and policy-and-law enforcements for the protection of public’s interest. For example, refusal of gold mining license’s renewal due to its damages to environment and public health, or consumer protection policies will not be able to implement, as the government will be sued for vast compensation and revocation of the policies by using an international arbitration mechanism. In the TPP, it will force Thailand to be a member of ICSID, an international arbitration, and the decision by ICSID will not be able to be re-considered by the Thai judicial system.
5. Policy makers should not make decision based on personal judgment and bias as it will have a long-term obligation for succeeding generations. The decision should be made based on comprehensive, accurate and balancing information. Therefore, it requires to complete the above four recommendations in order to have inclusive information before presenting the information to the International Economic Policy Commission’s or the Cabinet’s consideration.
6. In the meantime, amendments of laws, gazettes, and regulations in compliance with demands of the powerful countries should be impeded, including Patent Act, Plant Varieties Act, Government Procurement Act, gazettes and regulations on the control of beef importation from the countries with BSE risk, the control of agonist compounds used in pork, and warning labeling on alcohol drinks, and a draft Act about the control of marketing of infant food and related products. All of these amendment is undermining the agriculture sector, local wisdom, and consumers’ and public health protection.
FTA Watch and the civil society organizations monitoring free trade agreements’ negotiations would like to urge the policy makers on economy as well as the relevant ministers to make decision on the participation in the TPP based on the balance of pros and cons, rather than merely focusing on positively estimated impact of the TPP.
Civil society organizations’ representatives in the meeting with the Commerce Minister are:
1. Mr. Anan Mauengmonchai, Chairperson, the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS
2. Mr. Chalermsak Kittitrakul and Ms. Sangsiri Teemanka, AIDS Access Foundation
3. Mr. Vitoon Lianjamroon, Director, Biothai
4. Dr. Hatai Chitanon and Mr. Vasin Pipatanachat, Thai Health Promotion Institute
5. Mr. Kamron Choodacha, Stopdrink Network
6. Ms. Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul, FTA Watch