The unsettled debate on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has prompted the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) to conduct a new thorough study to decide whether Thailand should join the trade deal.
Earlier JSCCIB supported membership, but in the latest seminar, Supant Mongkolsuthree, a JSCCIB member and chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said the issue needs more study, comparing the pact to a woman with whom a man is considering marriage.
He needs to know her better and study her personality before making the key decision, he said.
Mr Supant said the JSCCIB is preparing to set up a committee within this year to weigh the pros and cons of the trade agreement carefully.
He did not specify how long the study will last, but said Thailand may need between 3-4 years to complete the lengthy process to become a CPTPP member as the issue needs approval from the cabinet and parliament.
Earlier this year the Thai Chamber of Commerce joined hands with the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce to conduct a month-long study before the JSCCIB unveiled its support of the trade pact. The JSCCIB believes the agreement will help boost international trade.
Civic groups oppose the move, reasoning it will affect the nation's food security and access to certain medicines.
Predee Daochai, chairman of the Thai Bankers' Association, suggested Thailand take part in negotiations over CPTPP before making a final decision to avoid missing economic benefits, which are needed as the economy is struggling.
The CPTPP, which commits members to reducing import tariffs on farm products, has been joined by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico ratified the agreement.
When discussing the membership experience in the same seminar, Tran Thi Thanh My, commercial counsellor for the Vietnam Embassy in Thailand, said her country's economy has significantly improved as it can sell more products to new markets like Canada, Mexico and Peru.
"Textiles, seafood and agricultural products can be exported to these markets," she said.
Ms My admitted other businesses have seen negative impacts, including automobiles and processed food. She said the move to become a CPTPP member requires full participation from all stakeholders and a study of the positive and negative impacts is needed.
Ryohei Gamada, senior economist of Japan External Trade Organisation, said some Japanese investors last year showed interest in relocation to Vietnam as a result of CPTPP, but Thailand has long been a preferred location.