Bangkok Post | 2 April 2008
FTAs ’ignoring environment’
FTI urges measures to cut industrial waste
While the government moves to strengthen Thailand’s global position through free-trade agreements, more efforts are needed to consider the environmental impact of increased industrial activity. Nilsuwan Leelarasamee, the deputy secretary-general for the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said that lower tariffs under FTAs had encouraged Thai manufacturers to increase production to meet export demand.
At the same time, Thailand has imported more from FTA partners, which has increased expenses for the country in terms of waste treatment and scrap disposal.
’’Increasing local production has resulted in higher industrial waste and environmental impact in Thailand,’’ Mr Nilsuwan said.
For example, manufacturing textiles and garments for export creates chemical waste. Meanwhile, car imports under FTAs mean that Thailand has to consume more oil to fuel those vehicles, he added.
’’Thailand has so far focused on boosting trade and investment through FTAs, but we have overlooked the impact caused by the waste and growing production that means we have to consume more energy and natural resources,’’ Mr Nilsuwan said.
’’Now it’s time to rethink and study the environmental impact for FTAs we want to be engaged with.’’
Thailand has FTAs with China, India, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, while an agreed economic partnership with Peru has yet to take effect.
The kingdom has been negotiating seven more pacts including Thailand-Bimstec, Asean-India, Asean-Japan, Asean-Australia-New Zealand, Asean-South Korea, Asean-the European Union, and Asean-the European Free Trade Association (Efta).
The FTI has joined forces with the Pollution Control Department in researching the economic and environmental impact of FTAs. The study began in mid-March and would be completed in September.
Sompote Kunmoot, an environmental management expert from the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida), said environmental impacts had been in line with the economic benefits of the FTA.
’’Growing exports have boosted Thailand’s gross domestic product (GDP). At the same time more electricity, gas, and petroleum are needed. Serving higher production for export has created CO2 as pollution,’’ said Mr Sompote.
’’Meanwhile, higher demand for waste and sanitary management to comply with standards of trade partners would push fees of those services higher, resulting in higher costs for Thai manufacturers.’’
Pawin Talerngsri, an official with the Commerce Ministry’s Trade Negotiations Department, admitted that negotiations for the FTAs had not taken environmental impact into account.
’’But I think Thailand can improve domestic capacity of waste and environmental management,’’ he said.
’’Trade has environmental implications no matter whether we have FTAs or not,’’ Mr Pawin said.
The dollar value of Thailand’s exports rose 17.5% to $152.47 billion in 2007 following an increase of 16.9% and 15% in 2006 and 2005, respectively.
’’Removing both tariff and no-tariff barriers under the FTAs is key to finding markets for Thai exports and enabling Thailand to compete on a level playing field with our competitors,’’ he said.
Of the total 2007 exports, Thailand shipped goods worth $18.1 billion to Japan, up 10% over the previous year, while those to Australia rose 31.6% to $5.7 billion.
Shipments to China and India were $14.8 billion and $2.66 billion, an increase of 26.5% and 47.9%, respectively.