Cabinet to mull joining Pacific trade pact
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Cabinet to mull joining Pacific trade pact

The Commerce Ministry is pushing for cabinet approval for Thailand's bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) amid fierce opposition from civil groups which have argued the move will have an adverse impact on food security and access to medicines.

The CPTPP is a trade agreement involving a newly-formed bloc of 11 Pacific Rim nations excluding the United States.

The 11 member nations are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The pact came into force in December 2018.

So far, seven members -- Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore and Vietnam -- have ratified the pact while Chile, Peru, Brunei and Malaysia have yet to do so.

CPTPP negotiations started after the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement reached a stalemate due to the withdrawal of the US in January 2017.

Thai farmers and civil society organisations expressed concerns about the impact of the new pact's intellectual property provisions, which prevent them from saving and reusing seeds that contain patented plant materials. But officials insist farmers would still have the right to collect and reuse seeds, but only for non-commercial purposes.

Critics have also been concerned about some CPTPP provisions' impact on access to affordable medicines as access to medicines is related to the protection of intellectual property rights and patents.

Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department under the Commerce Ministry, said yesterday that Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit has forwarded a proposal for Thailand's bid to join the pact to the cabinet through the Secretariat of the Cabinet.

However, it is still not known if the matter will be put on the agenda of a cabinet meeting tomorrow, Ms Auramon said.

The International Economic Policy Committee previously assigned the department to prepare the proposal after a study on the pros and cons of the CPTPP impact was completed.

Ms Auramon said the study has taken into account all related issues, particularly access to medicines and compulsory licensing under the agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights among member nations of the World Trade Organisation.

If Thailand does not join the pact, it will lose an opportunity and be overtaken by neighbouring countries Singapore and Vietnam which have already joined the pact, Ms Auramon said.

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