Thailand should take part in Asia-Pacific trade agreement talks in August to help to decide whether to join the pact, a group of leading Thai business associations said on Wednesday.
The country has said previously it could seek membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), as competition intensifies in electronics and agriculture from rivals such as Vietnam and Malaysia.
Opposition parties and some civil society groups oppose membership of the trade agreement, saying it could harm the farm and healthcare sectors.
But joining the talks will help the country learn more about the pact so it can adjust to competition, Predee Daochai, chairman of a joint standing committee on commerce, industry and banking, told a briefing.
"The process of seeking membership will take at least four years and Thailand can withdraw at any stage if found unbeneficial," he said.
Member countries, including Japan and Canada, signed the CPTPP deal in 2018 without the United States. The original 12-member agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was thrown into limbo in early 2017 when President Donald Trump withdrew from it.
Thailand's commerce ministry has said membership would boost the country's economy, helping to offset the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Members of parliament are planning to form a committee to study the impact of the trade pact as they debated the issue at Wednesday's parliamentary session.
"Does the CPTPP answer the goals for the development of the country?," said Jiraporn Sinthuprai of the opposition Pheu Thai Party. "This study has to be done to maintain national interests that benefit a majority of Thais".
Some members said Thailand did not need to rush to join the pact. Membership will need parliamentary approval.