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Govt cautioned not to rush FTAs

Govt cautioned not to rush FTAs

The Nation

Publication Date : 2004-12-08

Proponents and opponents of free-trade agreements stood firm Tuesday on their respective positions, while a government adviser warned against completing negotiations in haste.

“Normally a country will negotiate two or three FTAs at a given time, but Thailand is presently working on eight draft agreements,” said finance adviser Sompol Kiatphaibool.

The debate on FTAs was jointly organised by the Commerce Ministry and four Senate committees.

Amid fierce debate of the pros and cons, Sompol said FTAs would enable Thailand to cope with the world trend of trade liberalisation but added the government appeared in a rush to wrap up too many agreements.

In juggling eight FTAs, as instructed by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, authorities could miss flaws in the agreements, Sompol said.

He urged caution in concluding the pacts.

The finance adviser leads the Thai delegation in negotiations for an agreement with China.

All trade agreements, including the Chinese deal, have negative and positive impacts on the domestic market, he said, adding that the government was mapping out measures to deal with the fallout of lowering trade barriers.

Vice Commerce Minister Panpree Pahinthanukorn said the value of Thai exports to India had increased 122 per cent since the September signing of a bilateral trade agreement on 82 products.

Panpree, a staunch supporter of FTAs, said he would move ahead in negotiating for the inclusion of 5,000 more products in the Thai-Indian agreement.

He vowed to take extra caution in dealing with about 350 Thai products on the “sensitive” list before lowering trade barriers for the same products from India.

Senator Kraisak Chonhavan expressed strong opposition to FTAs, saying Thailand is not ready.

“Government officials assume that FTAs are the road to heaven, but they are wrong,” he said.

Kraisak said a Thai-Chinese trade agreement had adversely affected northern farmers.

Chinese agricultural products flooding the market have led to an across-the-board drop in farm prices in the North for the last two years, he said.

Lychees now cost Bt10 per kilogram, down from Bt25 two year ago, he added, while the number of poor northern farmers had risen to 2.28 million from 1.17 million over the same period.

 source: Nation