The National Economic and Social Advisory Council (Nesac) has urged the government not to accept the so-called Trips-plus provisions in the Thailand-European Union free trade agreement talks.
Nesac's request came after activists and patient and consumer networks asked Nesac to take a close look at Trips-plus, which they argue would prevent Thais from gaining access to life-saving medicines at affordable prices.
The term refers to additional provisions, more stringent than the World Trade Organisation's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement, which have been included in the Thailand-EU FTA text. They include data exclusivity, the extension of drug patent protection periods, and stricter IP protection enforcement.
Nesac member Jiraporn Limpananon said the council had written to the cabinet alerting the government about the impacts of Trips-plus.
In the letter, Nesac asked the government to arrange a public hearing to inform the public about the FTA talks.
"The Trade Negotiations Department has yet to arrange any public hearing," Ms Jiraporn said.
"It's very important that people are told about the benefits and potential costs of the government's decision.
"Thailand should not accept any further provisions which are stiffer than Trips," she said.
Under the draft FTA, the government would have to pay as much as 80 billion baht a year for expensive medicines. However, the country's GDP stood to benefit by only 70 billion baht a year from the agreement.
Nesac suggested the government should wait for the results of a health impact assessment study being conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and the National Health Commission before rushing into the deal.
Ms Jiraporn said the most recent study on the potential benefits of the deal was conducted two years ago, before the Euro crisis, and now needs updating.
Another Nesac member, Anan Muangmoonchai, said EU purchasing power had dropped since the Euro crisis.
"If the government accepts Trips-plus with the EU, other countries which sign bilateral deals with Thailand might request Trips-plus as well," he said.
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Writer: Paritta Wangkiat