Bangkok Post - 14 April 2021
State rushes to complete studies on CPTPP pact
By Wichit Chantanusornsiri
The Finance Ministry is speeding up its study on the pros and cons of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), as well as working on protective measures to cushion against the impact of the pact if Thailand decides to join.
Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said he sees greater opportunities to expand exports if Thailand joins the CPTPP.
The CPTPP was launched in 2019 to remove trade barriers among 11 nations representing nearly 500 million consumers in Asia-Pacific.
The pact replaced the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a similar trade deal that included the US until the Trump administration decided to withdraw.
Mr Arkhom, as chairman of a working panel in charge of the CPTPP study on government and state enterprise procurement, said the complete findings will be forwarded to the International Trade Policy Committee and the cabinet for approval.
In March, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered related agencies to submit by the middle of this month final CPTPP studies so the government can decide whether to join.
Deputy Prime Minister Don Pramudwinai, chairman of the International Economic Policy Committee, said on Feb 5 the government needs all related agencies to conduct more in-depth studies themselves, as suggested by the house standing panels. This process should take about three months, after which Thailand can decide whether to apply for CPTPP membership, he said.
The cabinet agreed in May 2020 to set up house standing panels to mull joining the pact, amid widespread concern about harm to the agriculture sector.
In April 2020, the cabinet shelved a decision on CPTPP membership following stiff opposition from politicians, civil society groups and prominent social figures who said it would hurt the economy, particularly the agricultural and healthcare sectors.
The panels were required to submit their studies within 30 days, in early July last year, but they asked for a 60-day extension. The studies found the CPTPP would deal a heavy blow to small farmers if Thailand becomes a member of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 1991), as required by the deal.
The government is being urged to accelerate upgrading laws and regulations to protect varieties of Thai plants and biodiversity.
Funds to remedy the impact of such pacts were deemed insufficient to cover all segments that would be affected.