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No renegotiation on Thai-Japan trade deal

The Nation | 26 February 2007

No renegotiation on Thai-Japan trade deal

Supalak Ganjanakhundee


Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram told a powerful Japanese business association on Monday that Thailand would not renegotiate on any issues in the controversial economic agreement with Japan.

Nitya told some 30 business executives at the Nippon Keidanren that some members of the National Legislative Assembly along with academics and nongovernmental organisations in Thailand were concerned about the issues of toxic waste and microorganism patents in the JapanThailand Economic Partnership (JTEPA).

But despite the concerns, Thailand would not reopen the negotiation on the issues, he said.

"We merely ask Japan to put our common understanding reached during the negotiation into words in the relevant paragraphs of the text, so that it can never be misinterpreted by anyone," Nitya said in his prepared speech.

"I believe it is in our mutual interest that the JTEPA will not encounter protest or public disagreement before or after the signing," he said.

Nitya was in Tokyo for four days to mark the 120th anniversary of diplomatic relations of Thailand and Japan and to make preparations for an official visit of Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, tentatively in the spring.

There would be no better testimony to the anniversary of the relationship than the signing of the JTEPA this year, he said.

"Therefore, I hope that the Keidanren can help resolve the issues so that the JTEPA can be signed soon," Nitya said.

Civic groups in Thailand have raised concern that the JTEPA would allow Japan to dump hazardous waste and patent microorganisms in the kingdom.

The drafted agreement’s article 28 on originating goods defines items which can no longer perform their original purpose and are only fit for disposal or for the recovery of parts or raw materials as "goods".

The article 130 on patents says: "Each party shall ensure that any patent application shall not be rejected solely on the grounds that the subject matter claimed in the application is related to a naturally occurring microorganism."

Thai negotiator chief Pisan Manawapat said that no party could use the two articles as loopholes to dump toxic waste or patent microorganisms.

The JTEPA talked about import duty on used items that Thailand has already traded with Japan. If any items could be deemed as toxic waste, the industrial ministry would not allow it, he said.

During a meeting at the Keidanren, Japanese executives whose companies have invested in Thailand, said they have never exported toxic waste to Thailand, he added.

On the patent issue, Thai law forbids patents on microorganisms, he said.

"Japan merely asked that we should not immediately ’reject’ any innovative proposal related to naturally occurring microorganisms," Pisan told reporters.

The two parties have a common understanding on the two issues, but the negotiation in Japan will try to put clearer words in the text for the "satisfaction of all", he said.

Pisan will spend another week in Japan to work on the issues with his counterpart and relevant agencies.

 source: The Nation