Coming clean on CPTPP

Coming clean on CPTPP

Photo file dated July 14, 2020 shows labor union members and civic groups launched campaign protest against the government plan to join Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Bangkok Post
Photo file dated July 14, 2020 shows labor union members and civic groups launched campaign protest against the government plan to join Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Bangkok Post

China's move to formally apply to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) should be a catalyst in accelerating the Thai government's decision on joining the controversial pact.

Although geopolitical strategy is believed to be behind Beijing's Sept 16 decision, as the world's second largest economy, China's bid to join the CPTPP does matter.

Following China, Taiwan on Sept 22 also filed an application to join the pact. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom applied for CPTPP membership in August.

China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), its accession to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and its latest move to join the CPTPP indicate Beijing is becoming a game changer on the global economic landscape.

Several countries are being encouraged by China's bid to join the CPTPP. In Asean, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei are members of the CPTPP. Indonesia and the Philippines have expressed an interest in joining.

Thailand will miss out on the benefits of a powerful trade pact if the country does not join the CPTPP, especially if China becomes its new engine. But being in too big a hurry to join the pact without a profound evaluation of its impacts, along with careful planning, public debate, and providing sufficient remedial measures for those affected could do more harm than good.

Last week, the International Economic Policy Committee (IEPC) chaired by Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai discussed how Thailand should proceed with the CPTPP issue. The committee required state agencies to come up with areas of concern, reservations and some idea of what adjustments would be needed, within the next 30-45 days.

Additional issues will be included in the negotiation framework will be filed later for cabinet's approval.

However, according to media reports, the committee dropped a proposal for an additional study to evaluate the impacts of the treaty after China, UK and Taiwan applied to join.

A study on CPTPP's pros and cons was conducted in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, by the Department of Trade Negotiations, and another partial one is being conducted by a House committee.

According to the reports, Mr Don is expected to submit a Letter of Intent on CPTPP accession to cabinet for its approval. Some say he will submit the LOI without waiting for completion of the negotiation framework. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha reportedly asked cabinet's meeting on Oct 12 for a progress report on the possibility of Thailand joining the CPTPP.

Make no mistake, the CPTPP will provide improved market access for Thai goods and services exports. But it comes with a price -- painful trade-offs between economic growth and suffering in some sectors.

Consumers also stand to be affected by protection of patents on seeds, plants and vines, and pharmaceutical patents under CPTPP provisions.

The CPTPP is known as a "high standard" multilateral agreement which will require Thailand to liberalise its trade to an unprecedented extent.

Its provisions on intellectual property protection are seen as beneficial to wealthier countries and large companies while hitting poorer countries and consumers.

The government has never told the public about its drawbacks and how it will will handle such impacts and help affected groups. It must come clean about these matters before it decides to join.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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