Bangkok Post - 21 January 2020
Ministry seeks nod for RCEP signing
By Phusadee Arunmas
The Commerce Ministry is scheduled to propose cabinet endorsement of Thailand’s participation in signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by the middle of this year.
Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said after the conclusion of RCEP talks late last year Thailand and country members of the pact are in the process of scrubbing the legal wording of the pact, and asking for domestic approval procedures.
She said the Commerce Ministry plans to file the proposal to the cabinet by the middle of the year to allow the commerce minister to formally sign the agreement during the Asean Summit in November in Vietnam.
"After the official signing, the pact will be brought into the ratification process by each member country," said Mrs Auramon.
"Likewise, Thailand plans to ask for parliamentary approval before the pact comes into force, which is likely by next year."
She said ahead of the pact’s implementation, the department will organise public hearings to provide better understanding to all stakeholders and related sectors.
Mrs Auramon insists RCEP will offer new opportunities to Thai investors in member countries, particularly in service sectors where Thailand is strong and has potential, such as construction, retail, healthcare, film and entertainment-related business.
The pact is also expected to help create more export opportunities for Thai farm products and upgrade their quality, especially for sugar, processed food, tapioca, shrimp and rice.
More importantly, Mrs Auramon said RCEP will offer more choices to Thai manufacturers to procure raw materials and import innovative technology to upgrade and develop industries.
On the remedy front, the Commerce Ministry is consulting related parties to establish a revolving FTA fund to help sectors harmed by free trade agreements, including RCEP, and upgrade the export capacity of Thai operators.
Thailand had a similar financial scheme handled by the Foreign Trade Department to help Thai businesses harmed by trade pacts, but the fund was depleted over the last few years.
The Trade Negotiations Department already held public hearings about the formation of a revolving fund to aid sectors hit by prospective FTAs such as RCEP, CPTPP, the Thailand-EU FTA and a potential Thailand-UK FTA.
Visit Limlurcha, vice-president of Thai National Shippers’ Council, said apart from farm products, industrial goods such as automobiles, machinery, computers, gems and jewellery, and rubber products are expected to benefit from the pact.
However, he noted higher competition is anticipated for certain farm products.