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FTA Watch calls on Prime Minister to stop all FTAs until law on international agreements is enacted

FTA Watch submitted a letter to the Prime Minister, calling to stop all Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) until a law on international agreement negotiations is enacted.

14 November 2006, 10 am. / In front of the Government House

About 100 representatives from FTA Watch gathered in front of the Government House to submit a letter to the PM Surayud Chulanont. They called for a halt in all on going FTA negotiations and signing on the concluded ones. They held a big yellow banner, which said “Signing FTAs is disastrous”.

Mr Nimit Thienudom, a FTA Watch member said, “This government tries to sign on to the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA) while it has never disclosed the agreement text to the public. Instead it will legitimize the past negotiations by means of public hearings and seeking an approval from the National Legislative Assembly. There are still a lot of concerns over this agreement due to an absence of people’s participation in the process. It was also an agreement with conflict of interest during Thaksin period.

“One worry is that the JTEPA will allow Japanese patients to use the domestic medical services and reimburse upto 70% from their social security fund in Japan. This will accelerate brain drain of medical professionals into private hospitals, which will worsen the supply of medical staff in both rural and urban areas, and will undermine our national health security.

The agreement will force Thailand to ratify to International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV Convention), which allows patents to life forms and only recognizes rights for plants breeders. This will have an adverse effect on biodiversity and create a situation where bio-piracy would become legal.

Protection of foreign investors by enabling them to sue the state in cases of expropriation or indirect expropriation from public policies will bypass the domestic justice system as it will use international arbitration forums. Moreover, it seeks a compensation for loss in the circumstances arisen by uncontrollable factors such as riots and natural disasters.

It is suspicious if the agreement contains tariff reduction to 0% on waste imports from Japan. If so, Thailand will become a dumping site for Japan’s toxic wastes as it is happening in the Philippines. This will severely affect environment and people’s health”.

FTA Watch urges the government to begin putting up appropriate policies, law and regulations in relation to the negotiations, to allow genuine people’s participation in decision making and direction of development by:

 Stop all FTA negotiations and signing until an appropriate law on negotiations of international agreements is enacted.

 Enact a law on negotiations of international agreements which contains framework for negotiations, process for stakeholders’ participation, a set up for an independent plurilateral committee to do holistic impact assessment, etc.

If the government continues to insist on signing the JTEPA, using public hearings and the process in National Legislative Assembly, it will only result in legitimising the agreement, which completely lacks transparency and virtually no people’s participation in the decision making process. This also means that your government is prepared to let a few vested interests gain at the cost of the vast majority of this country. And justice and fairness will be sacrificed”.