Final studies on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) are ready and scheduled to go before the cabinet's consideration over the next few weeks so that the government can make a decision whether to apply to join the pact.
Commerce vice-minister Sansern Samalapa said if the cabinet endorses the final studies commissioned by the International Economic Policy Committee and gives the green light for the country to join the CPTPP, Thailand will later file a letter of intent to apply for the CPTPP.
Once signatory members of the pact approve Thailand's application, a negotiation panel that includes members from all related stakeholders will be established to prepare the participation.
"A lot of processes are still needed before Thailand becomes a member of the CPTPP," he said. "It's not such a way that Thailand can immediately become a member of the CPTPP just after the cabinet's approval, and the government insists the processes are transparently done."
Mr Sansern said the studies by the International Economic Policy Committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai have found both benefits and drawbacks from joining the CPTPP, citing the benefits include higher trade in services and products and investment.
However, Thailand will be subject to a loss of economic opportunities and competitiveness if the country denies participating in the pact, he said, adding sensitive issues that Thailand desperately needs to pay attention to include the protection of new varieties of plants and biodiversity, intellectual property protection, and state procurement requirements.
"Many related parties still see it as tough and need time for Thailand to adjust itself to comply with those sensitive issues," said Mr Sansern. "In my personal opinion, Thailand should not enter the pact if Thailand is yet to get ready."
The CPTPP was launched in 2019 to remove trade barriers among 11 nations representing nearly 500 million consumers in Asia-Pacific.
The pact replaced the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a similar trade deal that included the US until the Trump administration decided to withdraw.
In April 2020, the cabinet shelved a decision on CPTPP membership following stiff opposition from politicians, civil society groups and prominent social figures who said it would hurt the economy, particularly the agricultural and healthcare sectors.
The cabinet agreed in May 2020 to set up house standing panels to study joining the pact, amid widespread concern about harm to the agriculture sector.
The panels were required to submit their studies within 30 days, in early July last year, but they asked for a 60-day extension.
Studies by the house standing panels have found the CPTPP would deal a heavy blow to small-scale farmers if Thailand becomes a member of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 1991), as required by the CPTPP.
The government is being urged to speed up upgrading laws and regulations to protect varieties of Thai plants and biodiversity.
The panels' studies also found funds to remedy the impact of free trade agreements continue to be insufficient to cover all segments that would be affected by the pact.
The panels also expressed concerns about opening the market for remanufactured goods, which may result in Thailand importing low-quality medical equipment.