Despite mounting dissent from civil groups, the chief trade negotiator insists Thailand is likely to see a boost in economic growth, investment and exports if the country participates in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said a study by Bolliger & Company (commissioned by the department) found Thailand's participation in the pact will increase GDP by 0.12%, or 13.3 billion baht, with investment up 5.14% or 148 billion, and exports rising 3.47% or 271 billion.
Higher exports were projected for processed chicken, sugar, rice, seafood, fruit, automobiles and parts, rubber, electrical appliances, air conditioners and apparel.
The pact is projected to create employment worth 73.4 billion baht.
Without CPTPP membership, Thailand is estimated to lose 26.6 billion baht, or 0.25% of GDP, with investment down 0.49% worth 14.3 billion baht and exports falling 0.19% or 14.6 billion.
Mrs Auramon said Thailand would also suffer opportunity loss in trade, investment and connectivity to supply chain and production processes in the region if it doesn't join.
Also at stake is competitiveness with Vietnam and Singapore, which are CPTPP members, she said.
The CPTPP is a trade agreement involving a newly formed bloc of 11 Pacific Rim nations excluding the US.
The 11 member nations are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The pact came into force in December 2018.
So far, Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore and Vietnam have ratified the pact.
CPTPP negotiations started after the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement reached a stalemate due to the withdrawal of the US in January 2017.
Thai farmers and civil society organisations expressed concerns about the impact of the new pact's intellectual property provisions, which prevent them from saving and reusing seeds that contain patented plant materials. But officials insist farmers would still have the right to collect and reuse seeds, but only for non-commercial purposes.
Critics are also concerned about some CPTPP provisions having an impact on access to affordable medicines as this matter is related to the protection of intellectual property rights and patents.
The study found Vietnam and Singapore saw higher shipments to CPTPP members at an average of 7.85% and 9.92% a year, respectively, between 2015 and 2019, while Thailand's exports to CPTPP countries rose only 3.23% a year during the same period.
Foreign direct investment from CPTPP members to Vietnam and Singapore amounted to US$16.9 billion and $63.9 billion in 2019, while that from the bloc to Thailand was worth only $9.01 billion last year.
Mrs Auramon said in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, trade and investment rules are expected to change.
Thailand must seek new partners or trade pacts, such as CPTPP, to make it competitive for trade and attractive for investment.
However, the trade negotiation chief insisted the decision to participate in CPTPP remains a long way off because it relies on cabinet approval.
The next step is Thailand sends a letter to New Zealand as the CPTPP's depositary and sets up a committee to negotiate rules and conditions.
Any decision would then need approval from parliament, said Mrs Auramon.