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Thai civil groups want IP off trade-talks agenda with US

The Nation | Bangkok | 12 October 2004

Civil groups want IP off trade-talks agenda with US

Rungrawee C Pinyorat

Civil groups yesterday called for intellectual property (IP) to be excluded from the second round of the Thai-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiation because of fears it would give unjustified protection to rich IP developers at the expense of Thais.

“The Thai negotiating team’s discussion on IP without having clear strategies would mean we are going to make a commitment which will have devastating ramifications on the Thai public and severely constrict our sovereignty,” said Jareon Khamphiraphap, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Law Faculty.

“We would like to call on the Thai negotiating team to immediately exclude IP from the second round of negotiations until a well thought-out strategy which includes participation from all stakeholders is devised,” he told a news conference organised by the FTA Watch group.

The negotiators, led by Nitaya Phibulsongkram, adviser to the foreign minister, yesterday began the second round of negotiations with the US in Hawaii, which will continue until Friday.

Jareon said the Thai-US FTA, drafted along the lines of the Singapore-US FTA, would oblige Thailand to be a signatory of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), under which it would be legally bound to automatically grant protection for any patents registered in the US.

Another agreement would be the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, which would bind Thailand to protect registered genetically-modified plants.

Saengsiri Trimanka of the Aids Access Foundation, said if Thailand became a signatory to the PCT, which increases the protection period for patented drugs, it would deprive Aids patients of access to cheap HIV/Aids drugs.

Jacques-chai Chomthongdi, researcher for the group Focus on the Global South, said the FTA would also bind the country to liberalising capital inflows from the US and this would put Thailand in the same situation that caused the 1997 economic crisis.

He said the negotiating team was eager to extend Thailand’s most-favoured-nation status with the US, given by the 1965 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, which is due to expire at the end of this year.

However, it is not clear what benefits Thailand has gained from the Treaty besides the granting of some 1,000 individual visas to the US, Jacques-chai said.

The continuation of most favoured nation status would also allow other countries to call for similar advantages from Thailand, he said, adding that the current FTA negotiation team was the “worst” of all such teams in terms of transparency.

 source: The Nation