The government should think twice before pressing ahead with its plan to seek membership of the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a leading academic warned yesterday.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership has members on both sides of the Pacific, but it has plenty of sceptics in the US (photo) and every member country as well.
The cabinet on Monday approved a proposal for the government to hold negotiations with the US over the possibility that Thailand might become a new member of the TPP.
The negotiations are expected to be held during the two-day official visit by the US President Barack Obama on Saturday and Sunday.
One major concern is that Thailand's service sector is not ready to become a part of the TPP as it is not competitive enough, said Aat Pisanwanich, dean of the School of Economics at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
Financial institutions in particular would be adversely affected by free trade in the service sector under the TPP. The technology sector also lacks the ability to compete in this free trade setting, said Mr Aat.
The TPP is a significantly expanded version of the 2005 Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, which works to further liberalise the economies of the Asia-Pacific region.
The TPP now has 11 members, namely Brunei, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, the US, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico and Canada.
It would, however, not be easy for Thailand to gain TPP membership as all member nations would have to unanimously approve Thailand's request, said a source at the Finance Ministry.
Piramol Charoenpao, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said Thailand would benefit from joining the TPP. As a member, the country would have to sharpen its competitive edge against other countries and improve government procurement standards, she said.
Fierce competition would be unavoidable and that would make Thailand stronger, she added.
During Mr Obama's visit, the government will hold a press conference to formally affirm its commitment to seek membership of the TPP, said a Commerce Ministry source.
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Writer: Wichit Chantanusornsiri & Phusadee Arunmas