Bangkok Post, 8 April 2006
New TRT government to proceed with FTA talks
The new Thai Rak Thai (TRT) government will proceed with the negotiations of the free trade agreements (FTAs) and invite international bidders for megaprojects, Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon told members of the diplomatic corps yesterday. He said they were the main policies of the TRT party, which just won the snap election.
The Thai-Japan FTA should encounter no problems because the only remaining step left was the signing of the agreement.
Negotiations on the Thai-US FTA would also continue, and the plan to consult the Thai private sector and non-governmental organisations would move forward. ’’I will ensure that the future FTA [policy] is consistent with the past FTA policy which is free and fair,’’ Mr Kantathi said.
Mr Kantathi was speaking before 70 diplomats from 55 countries. They included 34 ambassadors from China, Singapore, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
He later separately briefed the foreign media.
Mr Kantathi emphasised that the Thailand Partnership for Development scheme, which invites foreign investors to bid for megaprojects, would proceed, although the deadline for submitting proposals had been extended from the end of April to the end of May. ’’Megaproject investment would still be on the table because it was a policy on which the Thai Rak Thai government placed a lot of importance,’’ he said.
He said the interim government would be in power between 9-15 months, largely to bring forward political reform and constitutional amendments.
The government could be formed as soon as parliament can convene with 500 MPs, he added.
But he acknowledged the possibility of snags if by-elections, due to be held on April 23, did not fill up the seats in 39 constituencies, and attributed the difficulties to the boycott of the April 2 elections by former opposition parties.
The by-elections are being held because the lone candidates did not win the required 20% of the votes.
Vorapol Socatiyanurak, vice-chairman of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council (Nesac), said it was inappropriate for the interim government and the new parliament, which would have few opposition MPs, to make decisions on projects which could have a long-term impact on the country, like an FTA.
’’The government should wait for the completion of political reform and let the new government take decisions on such important issues like the FTA and mega-project investment,’’ he said.
He also suggested that the government listen and consult the general public on the FTAs via the Nesac.