Thailand again 'thinking' about joining TPP

Thailand again 'thinking' about joining TPP

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has said in the past that Thailand was leaving its options open about applying to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has said in the past that Thailand was leaving its options open about applying to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Thailand is considering applying to join the 11-nation trade deal that was initiated by ex-president Obama but abandoned by President Donald Trump on his first day in office.

Negotiations over the deal were concluded in January by the countries -- Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Peru, Chile, Japan and New Zealand -- who together account for about 13% of global gross domestic product. The members are expected to sign the text of the agreement next month in Chile.

"It's one of the hot issues being debated within government right now," said Somchai Swangkarn, the government's chief whip in the National Legislative Assembly, during an interview last week. "The government wants to sign, but there are a few that oppose."

"The Thai government had the intention of signing initially, but when the US withdrew, we had to stop and reconsider," Mr Somchai said.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump said he was willing to negotiate re-entry into the pact by the US.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday he had "begun to have very high-level conversations" on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and rejoining the regional trade pact is an option for President Trump.

"Thailand ought to join," Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre, an advisory group based in Singapore, said in an email. "Once the agreement moves ahead after signature next week, many countries are likely to re-look at joining."

According to Elms, the trade pact gives member countries access to benefits such as zero tariffs, better services, investment and protection for intellectual property rights, as well easier movement of goods across borders into other member countries.

"For anyone involved in supply chains, especially, TPP is a no-brainer," Elms said.

The regime's deputy spokesman Werachon Sukhondhapatipak said Thailand was considering the issue.

"Thailand will not rule out the idea of joining," he said at a media briefing last week. "We are making a study of the impact on Thai private sectors."

Each member can expect the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership to provide additional growth in national income of about 1% on average by 2030, according to an analysis by Professor Shujiro Urata of Waseda University in Tokyo.

It is an open agreement with the flexibility to include other countries. In addition to faltering interest by Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan have expressed interest in joining. TPP excludes China by design.

In order to join, prospective members would have to win the individual agreement of each of the pact's member countries.

According to a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a trade deal that added Indonesia, Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand would generate income gains of $449 billion globally, and $486 billion for the member countries.

Thailand is actively involved in a separate agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. It is a proposed free-trade agreement initiated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China that would also include India and Japan.

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