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«EFTA FTAs may have serious consequences on Thailand and Indonesia» tell civil society representatives to EFTA governments

Jakarta/Bangkok/Lausanne/Zürich/Oslo/Vaduz, 22.06.2006) - From 6th to 13th June 2006, four representatives of the Thai and Indonesian civil society came to Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway. In each country, they met with parliamentarians, negotiators and media people to explain them the possible consequences of the bilateral free trade agreements that the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries (i.e. Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland) are negotiating with their respective country. In January 2006, the first round of negotiations with Thailand occured in Chiang Mai. Recently EFTA and Indonesia set up a Joint Study Group to assess the feasibility of a free trade agreement between them.

The Berne Declaration (Switzerland), the Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development (Norway) and the Liechtensteinische Gesellschaft für Umweltschutz (Liechtenstein) organized the visit in their respective countries of four representatives of the civil society from Thailand and Indonesia: Dr. Alexander C. Chandra (Institute for Global Justice, Jakarta, Indonesia), Revrisond Baswir (Director for Gadjah Mada University Centre for Economic Democracy Studies, Yogjakarta), Associate Prof. Jiraporn Limpananont (Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok), Witoon Lianchamroon (Director and founder of Bio-Thai).

During their talks with EFTA’s officials, the four representatives, supported by the European NGOs, requested
 more transparency and more civil society participation along the negotiations process,
 the necessity to take into account the human rights and the level of development of the countries when negotiating a free trade agreement,
 no intellectual property rights provisions in the free trade agreements,
 no provisions for the liberalization of the financial sector in the free trade agreements.

More specifically, in the case of Indonesia very clear requests have been made:
 There shall be no free trade agreements between EFTA countries and Indonesia until the implications for Indonesia of the existing trade agreements among the ASEAN countries have been examined.
 The NGOs from Indonesia and Switzerland requested to participate in the joint EFTA-Indonesia study group. The previous one-sided joint study group for the free trade agreement between EFTA and Korea had led to a superficial result which had not taken in account the concerns of the civil society. Therefore, the process to assess advantages and disadvantages of a possible FTA between EFTA and Indonesia have to be improved. It is crucial that the study group is neutral and open, and that its result may be to advise not to enter into an FTA.

Representatives from Thailand shared the experience of the Thai civil society mobilization against free trade agreements. They insisted on the central role played by the FTA-watch coalition which brings together various civil society groups (farmers, people living with HIV/AIDS, academics, etc.) to monitor their governement’s stand in the negotiations.

They made very strong statements against the requests from EFTA countries to include in the FTA with Thailand intellectual property provisions on medicines (data exclusivity, patent extension) and on seeds and biotechnology (patentability of life forms, reference to UPOV, protection of biotechnological inventions). They pointed that those requests are TRIPs-plus provisions that are going beyond the requirements of the WTO agreement on intellectual property rights.

The different participants will continue to monitor EFTA negotiations with Thailand and Indonesia.

It remains still open whether the negotiators will consider the concerns of the civil society in the future negotiations. But one thing is clear: the negotiators can no longer argue that they were not informed on the possible negative consequences of free trade agreements for Indonesia and Thailand.

Alexander C. Chandra (Institute for Global Justice, Jakarta): +62 21 31931153
Revrisond Baswir (Centre for Economic Democracy Studies, Yogjakarta): +62 274 545 991

Jiraporn Limpanont (Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok): +66 2218 8374
Witoon Liamchanroon (Bio-Thai): +662 952 73 71

Julien Reinhard (health issues, Berne Declaration): +21 620 03 06
Marianne Hochuli (trade issues, Berne Declaration): +44 277 70 11
François Meienberg (agriculture issues, Berne Declaration): +44 277 70 04

Magnus Bjørnsen (Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development): +47 23 01 03 25

Regula Mosberger (Liechtensteinsche Gesellschaft für Umweltschutz): +423 232 52 62