Cabinet split over trade pact
Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit has decided to withdraw a proposal to the cabinet today for Thailand to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a source told the Bangkok Post.
The move came after Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul reportedly joined a chorus of opposition to the proposal which civil groups have argued will have an adverse impact on food security and access to medicine.
Mr Anutin was poised to raise his objections at the meeting on Tuesday, according to a source and the Public Health Ministry.
"Concerns about its impact on health security will be presented to the cabinet," the source said, adding that the restriction of rights to access medicine under the CPTPP would put the country's public health system in danger.
The CPTPP is a trade agreement involving a newly formed bloc of 11 Pacific Rim nations, excluding the United States.
Mr Jurin is said to have been alarmed by remarks made by opponents of the CPTPP who warned of possible adverse effects on a range of sectors, including environmental protection, the market for second-hand goods, state procurement activities and the Covid-19 situation.
The minister's aides claim that the CPTPP is being pushed by the economic cabinet, although Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has denied this.
Mr Somkid said that it was the government's International Economic Policy Committee chaired by Mr Jurin himself which was advocating joining the pact.
The CPTPP has been strongly opposed by civic groups and health activists.
Nimit Tienudom, director of the Aids Access Foundation, said the free trade agreement will hamper Thailand's procurement of antiretroviral drugs under compulsory licensing.
Thailand has accessed generic HIV/Aids drugs this way for over a decade, helping over 100,000 people living with the condition and saving over five billion baht a year.
"We totally oppose this free trade agreement even though its conditions are more relaxed. We foresee severely negative impacts on health and farming issues which would do more harm than good," he said.