CPTPP discord delays entry
Given the contentious debate about whether the country should join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), Thailand is unlikely to be able to submit a formal request to join the controversial pact within this year.
Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of Trade Negotiations Department, said Thailand will take time to apply to the CPTPP after the cabinet agreed to raise the issue in parliamentary debate amid widespread concerns the pact may harm the agriculture industry.
The cabinet agreed to set up a special committee to study the costs and benefits of CPTPP, she said.
The committee has been given 60 days until Sept 10 to finish its study, which the cabinet will consider before deciding whether to join the pact.
"More detailed study is needed and should lead to better understanding by all parties," said Mrs Auramon. "Policymakers will ultimately decide whether Thailand joins. The country still has room to submit a formal request to join the pact in the future if we choose."
The Commerce Ministry previously expected Thailand would be able to submit a formal request to join the CPTPP ahead of the pact's meeting on Aug 5 if the cabinet approves the Commerce Ministry's proposal.
A study by Bolliger & Company Thailand, commissioned by the Trade Negotiations Department, found Thailand's participation in the pact would increase GDP by 0.07-0.22%, or US$251-755 million, with investment growing by 5.14-6.66%, or $4.8-6.2 billion.
Exports are projected to increase 3.47-4.63% or $8.8-11.7 billion.
Without CPTPP membership, Thailand is estimated to lose between $859 million and $3.5 billion, or 0.25% and 1.01% of GDP, with investment down 0.49-2.11% or $460.6 million to $1.97 billion.
Exports are projected to fall 0.19-0.75% or $470 million to $1.9 billion.
The Bolliger study found CPTPP membership guarantees preferential and improved quality of market access for Thailand's goods, services and investment in the countries that Thailand already has an FTA with.
Moreover, the CPTPP offers a significantly expanded range of markets, including those Thailand does not have FTAs with (Canada and Mexico).
Non-governmental organisations spearheaded by FTA Watch and BioThai, another civic group advocating sustainable agriculture, have raised concerns about the overwhelming disadvantages that CPTPP would bring to Thailand.
They warn the pact would require Thailand to comply with international laws such as UPOV 1991, which will affect the rights and access of small farmers to save commercial seeds for replanting for sale or even using commercial seeds to improve plant quality.