The House of Representatives has unanimously agreed to form a special committee of 49 members to study the costs and benefits of the controversial Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The committee -- which elected Veerakorn Kumprakob, PPRP MP for Nakhon Sawan, as the chairman -- has been given 30 days to finish its study. It has named three sub-panels to study effects of the CPTPP on areas such as crop seeds, public health and medicine, and trade and investment.
The resolution was reached on Wednesday after hours of heated debate. Of the 49 members, 37 will come from various parties including 10 from the main opposition party, Pheu Thai, and nine from the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP).
The issue surrounding Thailand's possible membership in the CPTPP has sparked widespread opposition from many sectors, who fear the deal could do the country more harm than good, said Bhumjaithai Party list-MP Supachai Jaisamut during the House debate.
Opponents were concerned the CPTPP might undermine the country's public health security and agricultural industry, Mr Supachai said. The CPTPP will allow other countries to take the seeds of native plants from Thailand for research and create new plant species and have them patented as their own, said Rawi Matchamadon, a New Palangdharma Party list-MP. If the seeds are patented, farmers will no longer be able to use them during the next planting season.
The government risks facing lawsuits over patents filed by foreign businesses if and when Thailand becomes a member of the CPTPP, Dr Rawi added.
Mr Veerakorn said subscribing to the CPTPP will involve amending several laws and a study would be needed before any decision is made on membership.
Woraphop Viriyaroj, a list-MP of the Move Forward Party, said Thailand has low negotiating power if it wants to join the CPTPP this late in the bloc's formation. If it does so, the country will end up losing many of the benefits it should receive.
The Board of the Trade of Thailand, the Federation of Thai Industries, and Thai Bankers' Association have repeated their calls for the country to take part in the CPTPP talks.