PM ignores calls for court to review FTAs

posted 8-January-2006

Bangkok Post

PM ignores calls for court to review FTAs

Thaksin says govt has no need to get approval from parliament

By Post reporters

8 January 2006

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday ignored a call by the Senate committee on foreign affairs to seek help from the Constitution Court to review free trade agreements (FTAs) on grounds that they have contravened the constitution. The call by panel chairman Kraisak Choonhavan was made ahead of the sixth round of FTA talks between Thailand and the US, to take place in Chiang Mai from tomorrow until Friday.

Mr Kraisak is a leading lawmaker joining activists opposing the Thai-US FTA for fear that it would disadvantage the kingdom.

The prime minister said the government had no need to get approval from parliament on any bilateral free trade agreements signed with other countries, and called for confidence from other parties in government negotiators to protect the country’s interest.

He said Thailand was well prepared for talks with the US in an effort to seal the FTA, and could be the second country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to do so, after Singapore.

He insisted that any point in the agreement putting Thailand in a disadvantageous position would not be acceptable in talks with US counterparts.

A key issue on the agenda for the forthcoming negotiations between the two countries is patents on drugs.

Washington is seeking an additional five-year protection on US-made drugs on top of the World Trade Organisation’s framework, which gives members 20 years of patent protection.

Nimit Tienudom, leader of the Aids Access Foundation, guaranteed that Thai and US officials will be greeted with protesters every day at the talks.

The protest will start tomorrow in front of the US consul in Chiang Mai, before moving to hotels which are hosting the meeting.

Mr Nimit said protests against the FTA will be organised every day until the end of the meeting on Friday.

Activists and Aids patients oppose the FTA because they fear that the kingdom will have to buy dearer drugs from the US, due to longer patent protection, and it could badly affect people infected with HIV who have to rely on drugs imported from the US.

Mr Kraisak accused the government on Friday of violating article 224 of the constitution, which requires all key issues to be passed for consideration by the Senate.

Under the article, any agreement which alters Thailand’s territory or state jurisdiction must obtain approval from parliament

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