TPP 'unlikely to harm Thai car industry'

TPP 'unlikely to harm Thai car industry'

Low logistics costs, FTAs help, seminar told

Academics say the much-touted Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is unlikely to greatly affect the Thai automotive industry despite Japanese car firms fretting over the pact, signed by 12 Pacific Rim countries last October. 

Assoc Prof Archanun Kohpaiboon, an economics lecturer at Thammasat University, said vehicle exports should do well without the TPP because shipments focus mainly on adjacent regions in Asia, the Middle East and Oceania where logistics costs are relatively low.

Thailand has free trade agreements (FTAs) with countries that impose no import tariffs on vehicles, he told a seminar at Muang Thong Thani held by the Thai Automotive Industry Association.

US import tariffs are 2.5% for passenger cars and 25% for pickup trucks.

Only eco-cars are shipped to North America, representing 5% of Thailand's vehicle exports.

Assoc Prof Archanun said automotive companies in Thailand were unlikely to move their production bases to TPP members if Thailand did not join the pact.

Nevertheless, Deunden Nikomborirak, research director of the Thailand Development Research Institute, urged Thailand to join the TPP because the country has no FTAs with the US, Canada and Mexico.

Meanwhile, most people from all sectors have given full support for Thailand to join the TPP but concerns linger about the protection of varieties of plants and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), said commerce vice-minister Winichai Chaemchaeng.

"Civil society, academics and businesses generally want Thailand to join the TPP but they also urge policymakers to study the impact carefully before making any final decision," he said.

"Most northeastern farmers are still concerned about the impact of the TPP intellectual property chapter that prevents farmers from saving and using seeds that contain patented plant material and GMOs.

"As a matter of fact, the TPP allows farmers to save and reuse seeds but only for non-commercial purposes, while for GMOs it needs only information exchange and cooperation on trade-related matters associated with products of modern biotechnology."

About 12 public hearings on the TPP have been held and more are planned in the East, South and North before a decision is made on whether to join the pact.

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