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Thaksin rejects Senate challenge to FTA

Bangkok Post

Thaksin rejects Senate challenge to FTA

Thai News Agency

8 January 2006

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra defended the transparency of his administration in dealing with ongoing Thai-US free trade area (FTA) negotiations, and said that he was unworried that a group of senators plan to challenge the pact by charging that it violates the country’s constitution.

Mr Thaksin said that a government committee studying the pros and cons of the accord would use prudence in making their considerations, and that the FTA was meant as a means of exchanging mutual benefits between both parties.

"Our negotiating team has followed the issue with complete prudence; otherwise the negotiations could have been completed a long time ago, " Mr. Thaksin said.

"The US has complained about the talks taking so much time," added Mr. Thaksin.

He said that the US is considered Thailand’s key trading partner, and that Thailand has always enjoyed trade surplus with the US so far.

Thailand would be in trouble if it could not ship its goods to the US, as it would lose competitiveness to other countries which have FTA agreements with the Americans.

Mr. Thaksin’s remarks were made as officials of the two countries were preparing to resume the sixth round of Thai-US FTA talks next week in Thailand’s northern resort provinc of Chiang Mai.

A major protest rally is planned at the meeting venue to oppose the FTA plan during the negotiations.

Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs Kraisak Choonhavan also said that a senate panel is drafting a petition to the Constitutional Court to renounce the country’s FTAs as unconstitutional because they had not been approved by the parliament.

Sen. Kraisak charged that the prime minister’s reluctance to submit the trade pacts to parliamentary scrutiny was because he feared doing so would expose further conflicts of interest within the Thaksin government and called for the prime minister to step down.

The Thai-US FTA Agreement is, however, expected to be agreed at the next round of negotiation in Chiang Mai despite the opposition and the planned protest at the meeting venue by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civic societies.