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Proposal with the US to be highlighted

Bangkok Post

9 February 2004

Proposal with the US to be highlighted

By Woranuj Maneerungsee

The government will spend 10 million baht this year on advertisements to
inform the public about the benefits of free trade area (FTA)
agreements, in particular the one proposed between Thailand and the
United States.

The Trade Negotiation Department initiated the advertisements in the
wake of a string of bilateral and regional free trade area agreements
between Thailand and other countries in the past two years.

The Thaksin administration has moved forward with free trade area
proposals as it believes that multilateral trade talks under the World
Trade Organisation (WTO) umbrella are moving too slowly.

The official added the department would launch the campaign because of
the public’s growing concern over the proposed Thai-US FTA.

Particularly, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have expressed fears
regarding upcoming FTA talks between the two countries scheduled to
begin this year, saying Thailand could not compete with hyperpower
America, the world’s largest economy.

The Bush administration will submit a Thai-US FTA proposal to US
lawmakers this month, who then have three months to consider it, but no
right to object.

Although both countries have yet to set a framework for the talks, it is
assumed that negotiations would be based on the Singapore-US agreement,
which excludes the farm sector.

Washington realises that in talks with Bangkok, it is important to
include farm issues because Thailand considers them a priority, Walter
Lohman, executive director of the US-Asean Business Council said earlier.

The department’s official said that throughout this year, the department
will inform the public regarding implications of the FTA through all
media channels. The first radio spot on this issue will be aired by mid-month.

’’The department would like to know how Thais feel about a Thai-US FTA
and what they want us (the department) to do. They will be able to write
to us as soon as our web page on the Internet is completed,’’ she said.

Jacqueschai Chomthongdee, a researcher from NGO Focus on the South,
which monitors globalisation, said his group and other NGOs will hold a
conference to discuss the potential fallout of a Thai-US FTA next Monday.
International NGOs will present independent studies of the results from
different countries which have already struck free trade deals with the

The US, so far, has bilateral FTAs with a number of countries, including
Chile and Singapore.

It is currently trying to hammer out a deal with Australia, but farm
issues have stalled negotiations.

Thailand has signed limited bilateral free trade agreements with China
and India. Negotiations with Australia will be completed by the first
half of this year, while talks with Japan and the US are likely to start
in the second half.

Witoon Lianchamroon of Biothai, said the US may insist that
biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMO) are tied to the
talks, an issue that many countries have opposed.