Bangkok Post, Thailand
Narongchai: Put pacts on a faster track
By Phusadee Arunmas
23 August 2008
The government needs to address existing legal issues that impede international trade agreements, says Narongchai Akrasanee, a member of the cabinet’s economic advisory team.
Article 190 of the Constitution, which requires all international agreements to be approved by parliament, is a key impediment to trade pacts, Dr Narongchai said at a public hearing held yesterday on the Asean-South Korea free trade agreement.
The free trade agreement between Thailand and South Korea recently won the cabinet approval, paving the way for the two countries to sign the pact at the Asean economic ministers’ meeting that starts on Monday in Singapore.
However, while the bilateral pact is part of the Asean-South Korea free trade framework and has been signed by the two governments, it will take effect only after the Thai Parliament ratifies it.
Asean and Seoul began FTA talks in 2005. All Asean members except Thailand signed the agreement in May 2006 and it took effect two months later.
Thailand had declined to sign the Asean-Korea FTA over differences in Seoul’s treatment of some agricultural products, particularly rice and livestock.
After almost a year of negotiations, Thailand concluded talks with Seoul last December after Seoul allowed an extension for tariff reductions on Thai goods from 2010-12 to 2016-17.
According to Dr Narongchai, Article 190 makes ministers reluctant to sign any international trade pacts for fear that they would be subject to possible lawsuits if political conditions changed.
More importantly, trade partners with whom Thailand has already completed talks could be not assured that what was already agreed would not be subject to changes later, he said.
’’To address this issue, amendments of entire articles are not necessary,’’he said. ’What the government could do is to draft organic laws for Article 190 to set the direction for Thailand’s future international pacts.’’
Dr Narongchai said the proposal would go before the cabinet next week.