Thai Govt urged to put off US talks

Bangkok Post, 9 June 2005

FREE TRADE / IMPACT ON FARMERS FEARED

Govt urged to put off US talks

PIYAPORN WONGRUANG

Farm advocates, intellectual property rights experts and farmers groups yesterday called on the government to postpone the upcoming round of free trade negotiations with the United States that would focus on intellectual property rights (IP) to avoid the impact on farmers.

They said the government had provided no assurance that farmers and the public would benefit from the negotiations, and it had no clear stance on the IP issue.

The next round of the negotiation is scheduled to take place next month in the US, where the IP issue would dominate the five-day talks, according to the National Human Rights Commission’s subcommittee on biodiversity and intellectual property rights.

The subcommittee along with FTA Watch, Biothai, and Alternative Agriculture Network organised a seminar yesterday to express their concern that Thailand would be forced into accepting the US principles of intellectual property rights protection, which were based mainly on patenting.

Witoon Lianchamroon, director of Biothai, an independent organisation working on promoting biodiversity and communal rights conservation, said such a system protected inventors’ rights but not natural resources on which the inventions were based.

That meant farmers’ resources here might be exploited freely while they could face fierce competition from new inventions, he said.

Jaroen Compeerapap, Silpakorn University’s vice president for intellectual property rights and traditional knowledge, said natural resources were considered commodities in free trade talks with their social and cultural aspects disregarded.

He cited as an example Thai rice varieties, many of which were developed via community selections. The groups were most concerned about jasmine rice which now comprised over 75% of rice imports into the US but would face fierce competition from the development of new varieties in the US.

Pinit Korsieporn, a Thai trade negotiator, said it was possible to postpone the scheduled negotiation if the public proposed that to the government.

’’The government actually should listen to all parties involved, but sometimes there is no unity in thier proposals that would make it easy to make decisions,’’ said Mr Pinit, deputy secretary-general of the office of Agricultural Economics.

Kalaya Sophonpanich, deputy leader of the Democrat party, said she had proposed to parliament that a special committee be set up to study free trades in a move to draft a new regulation for free trade deals.

She suggested the public undertake a sign-up campaign to propose that parliament pass such a law.

Biaw Thaila, a Suphan Buri farmer with over 50 years of experience, said farmers were little informed about the issue.

source: Bangkok Post