Despite seed concerns, CPTPP study to proceed

Despite seed concerns, CPTPP study to proceed

A study of the benefits and impacts of joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a newly formed bloc of 11 Pacific Rim nations excluding the US, is likely to be finished later this year.

Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said the department has finished public hearings held in all regions throughout the country from August to September to gather feedback from stakeholders about the CPTPP.

The department will propose the initial study and public hearings to the CPTPP working committee chaired by Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong in November.

Mrs Auramon said the public hearings highlighted concern about issues relating to market access for goods, services and investment; intellectual property (IP) protection; public health; investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms; and government procurement.

Thai farmers and civil society organisations also vented their concerns about the impact of the new pact's IP chapter that prevents them from saving and reusing seeds that contain patented plant material.

She insisted that farmers would still have the right to collect and reuse seeds, but only for a non-commercial purpose.

Various farmer groups also raised concerns about the dumping of agricultural products from other countries on the local market and higher competition from imports.

Another roadblock was the possible import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) if Thailand joins the new bloc. Mrs Auramon said the CPTPP has no mandatory course for imports of GMOs, as every member is free to decide the GMO issue on its own.

Thailand has a Plant Quarantine Act that bars imports of GMOs, she said.

Mrs Auramon said an initial study found that Thailand would benefit from the bigger markets of the CPTPP, particularly for products like rice, seafood, poultry, processed food, sugar and fruit. Industrial products such as automobiles, electronics and their respective parts are also likely to benefit.

On March 8, 11 Pacific Rim countries signed the CPTPP, which was revised after the US withdrew from the previous TPP agreement in January 2017.

The signatories are Singapore, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Vietnam. The CPTPP members welcomed interest from other economies wishing to join the trade bloc.

The 11 CPTPP countries combined had US$10.2 trillion (319 trillion baht) in GDP in 2017, making up 13.5% of the global total.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said earlier that Thailand planned to apply for CPTPP membership later this year.

Japan agreed in July during Mr Somkid's visit to support Thailand's membership in the bloc.

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