US FTA seen as threat to Thai identity

Bangkok Post, 13 September 2005

US FTA seen as threat to Thai identity

ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT

The free trade agreement with the United States threatens Thailand’s ecological biodiversity and cultural uniqueness, researchers warned yesterday. Visut Baimai, director of the Biodiversity Research and Training Programme, said he feared the FTA would accelerate deforestation to grow profitable single-crop plantations. This, he said, could undermine both the ecosystem and sustainable economic development.

’’We should balance globalisation with a biodiversity-based economy which relies on rich natural resources which support a variety of small organisms, insects, plants, and animals,’’ he said.

Mr Visut, a professor in Mahidol University’s biology faculty and chairman of the sub-committee on biodiversity of the National Human Rights Commission, warned a Thai-US FTA would jeopardise the royally promoted principle of economic self-sufficiency, which relies on biodiversity and has been a foundation of economic security for centuries.

The FTA would likely lead to liberalisation of the educational sector, which eventually could affect the Thai way of life and way of thinking for generations to come, said Mr Visut.

’’Once future generations are shaped with imported culture, how can we secure Thainess and our national identity. That’s a security problem as well,’’ he said.

Kiat Sitthi-Amorn, a Democrat list MP, questioned whether Thai negotiators would be able to convince their US counterparts to dismantle complicated non-tariff barriers such as import licensing, quotas, subsidies and sanitary standards.

Somkiat Tangkitvanit, a researcher for the Thailand Development Research Institute, said little progress was made in the year-long negotiations with the US, but a deal could be concluded quickly if there is political will.

A US demand for long-term protection of intellectual property rights _ five years longer than the World Trade Organisation standards _ was an example of their efforts to extend monopolies for US multinational corporations, he said.

source: Bangkok Post