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Thaksin promises FTA details later

Bangkok Post

Thaksin promises FTA details later

10 January 2006

(TNA) Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra reiterated on Monday that the government is ready to reveal the result of negotiations to establish a free trade area (FTA) between Thailand and the United States - in due course.

He insisted the government would not bring details of the talks on the US-Thailand FTA pact for discussion in the House of Representatives session because it is not required by the constitution.

He said the matter is the responsibility of the executive branch. However, he promised to reveal the details of the negotiation at an appropriate time.

Now, he added, experts from many parties are closely examining the agreement to ensure the country would not put at disadvantage from it.

"I will definitely reveal the results of the negotiation in due course," Mr. Thaksin said. "Now, we do not yet known what shape an FTA agreement with the US will take. So, we cannot reveal it for the moment. It is a technical matter.

"However, we assured the US the negotiation of the deal will end up as a win-win scenario," he said.

On mounting opposition to the US-Thailand FTA agreement by some groups, the premier said, ministers involved must clarify any misunderstanding of the people. Currently, he said, a committee had been assigned to review the agreement.

"No parties want to lose benefits. In reality, we cannot gain from everything we have done. But we can ease the impact if there are repercussions. Officials must be fully ready to clarify when any misunderstandings arise," he said.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 protesters gathered on Monday morning in front of Chiang Mai Railway Station before parading into the city centre. Some protesters plastered their eyes and ears with tape to symbolise that the government has covered the public’s eyes and ears concerning the impact of the negotiations.

The protesters planned a rally at the US consulate in Chiang Mai to demand that US representatives to cancel the negotiations.

According the protesters, the Thai-US free trade agreement will adversely affect Thai farmers whose agricultural products will suffer the low prices, and that the Kingdom will be at a significant disadvantage.

They said they believe that the pact will inevitably affect the daily lives of most Thais, but that only a few industries will cultivate huge benefits from the pact.

The agreement on drug patents, for instance, will badly affect the domestic pharmaceuticals industry’s competitiveness and patients in Thailand especially — those with HIV, cancer, diabetes and kidney illnesses — will suffer costly medication, and some might be denied an access to medication after all, they claim.