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Thai-Japanese FTA negotiations: Toxic waste annex to be tabled in Tokyo

Bangkok Post | 5 March 2007


Toxic waste annex to be tabled in Tokyo

Experts urge removal of problematic text


A one-page annex will be added to the Thai-Japan free trade agreement to ensure the trade pact will not overrule the international agreement on transboundary movement of hazardous waste, said a senior Industrial Works Department official in charge of waste management. Bundit Tunsathien, head of the department’s waste control and planning division, said the annex, called ’’the understanding on the interpretation of the agreement,’’ stipulates that the Thai-Japan FTA ’’is not intended to create any inconsistencies with the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal and does not in any way represent a deregulation of trade in hazardous waste or an attempt to undermine the convention’’.

The Thai negotiators have been discussing the annex with Tokyo and are likely to sign the trade pact early next month.

The move came after anti-FTA activists and international trade agreement experts warned the government against an influx of Japanese toxic waste to Thailand following enforcement of the pact.

Under the FTA, tariffs on waste will be eliminated to facilitate the import and export of toxic waste, which should be strictly controlled under the Basel Convention, which Thailand and Japan have ratified.

The convention is a legally-binding global commitment to stop the transfer of hazardous waste from industrialised countries to developing countries. The convention’s parties must comply with the principle of national self-sufficiency in waste management.

The inclusion of the annex, however, was criticised by the FTA opponents.

Buntoon Srethasirote, of the National Human Rights Commission’s working group on the FTAs, said the annex was ’’meaningless and will not be able to safeguard Bangkok from the Japanese waste’’.

He said that the clauses regarding tariff reduction for hazardous waste imports should be removed and the whole FTA text be revised to ensure that environmental agreements will prevail over trade and investment activities.

Mr Buntoon also questioned the Thai negotiators’ move to add the one-page annex into the FTA, instead of re-negotiating the waste issue with Tokyo.

’’Appending the understanding of the interpretation should be the last resort. Thai negotiators should first try to convince Japan to remove the problematic text,’’ he said.

Environmental activist Penchom sae Tang, of the Campaign for the Alternative Industry Network, said the annexation was broadly written, so could not guarantee that the toxic waste trade would be in line with Thailand’s Hazardous Substances Act and the Basel Convention.

She called on the Thai and Japanese governments to remove the waste trading issue from the FTA. ’’It is unreasonable to treat toxic waste as normal goods that are eligible for tariff reduction. Transboundary movement of such hazardous materials will impact badly on human health and the environment,’’ she said.

 source: Bangkok Post