Thais willing to join talks on US Indo-Pacific regional pact

Thais willing to join talks on US Indo-Pacific regional pact

US President Joe Biden disembarks from Air Force One during his arrival at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on Friday. He is expected to announce the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework during his visit to Japan, which came after the trip to South Korea. (Bloomberg photo)
US President Joe Biden disembarks from Air Force One during his arrival at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on Friday. He is expected to announce the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework during his visit to Japan, which came after the trip to South Korea. (Bloomberg photo)

The government has asked the Foreign Ministry to announce Thailand's intention to join talks on the US' newly proposed multilateral trade agreement, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce Jurin Laksanawisit met for bilateral talks with US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai on the sidelines of the Apec Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) meeting in Bangkok on Friday.

Speaking later, Mr Jurin said the US asked Thailand to support the IPEF, which will be announced in France next month. He said he told Ms Tai that the cabinet on Tuesday agreed on a statement on the IPEF which expressed the country's desire to join the talks. According to the statement, the document is not legally binding on Thailand, but it only serves to express the country's intention to join the talks.

The talks on the IPEF will promote economic security and sustainable development in the Indo-Pacific region, with an emphasis on trade, supply chain, clean energy, carbon dioxide reduction, infrastructure, taxation and combating corruption.

Small groups of demonstrators had gathered outside the United States Embassy in Bangkok to oppose pressure by Washington DC on Thailand to join any alliance that would place the country at odds with China and Russia.

The group, led by protest leaders and political activists Jatuporn Prompan and Nitithorn Lamlua, submitted an open letter addressed to US President Joe Biden. The protest came as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was attending the US-Asean Special Summit in Washington DC during May 12-13, where President Biden met leaders of Asean member countries.

The demonstrators called on the American leader to cancel a joint Thai-US statement on its Indo-Pacific alliance strategy. The open letter warned those US plans would put Thailand at risk of losing the balance in its ties with the world's superpowers.

Former finance minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala said on Facebook earlier that the Biden administration issued a document in February outlining its Indo-Pacific strategy seeking to strengthen the US's role in the region by working with its allies to counter what it sees as the growing threat posed by China. "I have never seen a document which makes so patently clear the intention [to go] against a rival country," Mr Thirachai wrote.

Meanwhile, representatives of five economies including the United States and Japan walked out of the Apec trade ministers' meeting in Bangkok yesterday, in protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Representatives from Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Australia joined the Americans, led by Trade Representative Ms Tai.

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