6 July 2004
Shin Satellite denies benefiting from pact
Licenses in Australia obtained years ago
Komsan Tortermvasana Woranuj Maneerungsee
Shin Satellite has strongly denied allegations that it would benefit from the Thai-Australian free trade area (FTA) deal, saying that Australia had already opened its telecom market for full competition and the company had entered the market seven years ago.
"We already have all telecom licences to do business there. So I cannot think what other benefits we will get from the FTA deal," Shin Satellite chief executive Dumrong Kasemset said yesterday.
Dr Dumrong said Shin Satellite entered the Australian market in 1997 by providing television broadcasting service from its Thaicom 3 satellite. "Today we are still providing such services in Australia."
For its fourth satellite now under construction, iPSTAR, he said that Shin Satellite was granted spectrum in the Ka-band from the Australian Communications Authority through a bid in 2001, and had established a joint venture called IP-Star (Australia).
He also said that Shin Satellite had no interest in holding a stake in the Australian companies Optus and Vodafone Australia as the two companies already had overseas telecom giants as major shareholders.
As Shin Satellite was a listed company, he said, it was always implicated in discussions about state policy and international trade deals since its parent company, Shin Corporation, was founded by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
He was responding to comments made by social critics on Sunday that the Thailand-Australia FTA, which Mr Thaksin signed yesterday in Canberra, was loaded against Thai farmers, especially dairy and cattle operators, and in favour of Thai telecoms interests.
Dr Dumrong said Shin Satellite was consulting its legal advisers about the possibility of countering its accusers.
"We, the accused, never exercise our right. But this time if we continue to be the target of allegations that are baseless, we will resort to court action to defend ourselves," he said.
Meanwhile, the head of Thailand’s negotiating team, Karun Kittisataporn, said there was "no conflict of interest" in the Thailand-Australia FTA (Tafta).
"Thai negotiators never urged Australia to open up its telecommunications and automotive and parts sectors to trade off anything from Thailand." said Mr Karun, also the permanent secretary of the Commerce Ministry.
In fact, he said, Australia had had its own policy to liberalise investment in the sectors in question.
A trade observer agreed, saying that American investors already had greater access to Australia’s telecoms sector than Thai businesses.
Tafta is the first free trade pact Thailand has reached with a developed country that covers all areas, from trade to services and investment.
In trade, the countries are scheduled to cut import tariffs starting on Jan 1 next year and to zero by 2010. However, producers of some sensitive Thai goods such as dairy products, beef, sugar as well as coffee have between 20 and 25 years to strengthen their operations before import tariffs will be removed.
The observer said that on the services side, Thai people would be able to work in Australia more easily than before. However, looking at the deal sector by sector, the FTA would benefit Thai manufacturers more than the farm sector.