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Senate panel urges labour unions to fight trade pact

Bangkok Post, 11 may 2005

Senate panel urges labour unions to fight trade pact


The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs yesterday urged labour unions across the country to take a stand against the Thai-Japanese free trade area (FTA) ahead of a new round of talks in July.

Speaking as head of a fact-finding panel on the impact of the FTA, committee chairman Senator Kraisak Choonhavan said the government is trying to sell off a slice of the country and it was time the private sector created a pact with various labour unions to make Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s regime listen to reason.

’’Labour unions in various industries that are affected by the FTA can play an important role in fighting Mr Thaksin’s free trade craving and company owners should not hesitate to bring these people into the picture,’’ said Mr Kraisak.

Prime Minister Thaksin on Friday slammed local business leaders who have been critical of the bilateral agreement as ’’cartels’’ afraid of competition.

’’They cannot maintain the status quo as cartel businesses living day by day, calling for help from the government when they collapse into NPLs [non-performing loans],’’ Mr Thaksin said before his talks with Japan’s visiting Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) Minister Shoichi Nakagawa.

Mr Thaksin was reacting to the Board of Trade of Thailand and the Federation of Thai Industries, which together on Thursday declared their strong opposition to liberalisation of the auto and auto parts industries. The business leaders claimed that if tariffs were removed, Japanese autos and auto parts would force their Thai counterparts out of business.

Thailand, one of the world’s largest agricultural exporters, is pushing hard for Japan to reduce tariffs and quota restrictions for commodities, including chicken, sugar and other products.

Meanwhile, Japan has called for lower barriers on the steel and auto sector.

 source: Bangkok Post