[Ip-health] Yingluck: TPP 'not on agenda'

Jockey jockey.kit at gmail.com
Sat Nov 17 06:13:47 PST 2012

Yingluck: TPP 'not on agenda'

   - Published:
07:26 PM
   - Online news:

      The US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will not be on the agenda
of talks with US President Barack Obama, says Prime Minister Yingluck

The country at this stage is only studying the pros and cons of entering
talks, the premier said as activists prepared to stage a rally against the
pact at Don Mueang airport on Sunday afternoon when Mr Obama arrives.

One of Thailand's most prominent international figures has also cautioned
against rushing into the TPP. Supachai Panitchpakdi, the secretary-general
of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), said the country
had to consider carefully the potential impact of the TPP on trade,
investment and intellectual property rights.

A joint statement by Mr Obama and Ms Yingluck on Sunday evening is expected
to affirm Thailand's interest in joining the TPP pact. Mr Obama, who is
making his first visit to Thailand, has made expanding the TPP a top
priority for US foreign and trade policies.

"A number of parties have expressed concern about Thailand's participation
in the TPP," Ms Yingluck said.

"No agreement has been made. We are only expressing interest in studying
the details and the pros and cons. There will be no talks on this issue
with President Obama."

Ms Yingluck said any decision to join the TPP would first have to be
approved by the cabinet and the Parliament, and that the views expressed by
all parties would be considered before any decision is made.

If it goes ahead, Thailand would be the 12th country to join the TPP. Other
countries that have committed to talks include Chile, New Zealand,
Singapore, Australia, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Critics of the TPP claim it would be heavily tilted in favour of the United
States, which wants to link trade closely to intellectual property,
environmental protection and labour rights.

Local activists in particular fear a potential impact on Thai healthcare,
as they say the US would use the TPP to protect big American pharmaceutical
companies and block availability of low-cost medicines.

Jiraporn Limpananont, chairwoman of the Foundation for Consumers, said the
Thai government would face additional healtchare expenses of 620 billion
baht over 30 years if drug patents were extended under the TPP agreement.

The government would face a bigger and stronger protest if it goes ahead
with TPP negotiations, said Jacques-Chai Chomthongdi, the coordinator of
FTA Watch, which is organising Sunday's airport protest.

Some critics also note that Washington has not explicitly invited China to
join the TPP, leading them to believe that the US is trying to force
Pacific nations to choose between two superpowers.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on Saturday said that was untrue.

"We continue to consult with Japan, and we are offering to assist with
capacity building so that every country in Asean can eventually join," Mrs
Clinton said in Singapore. "We welcome the interest of any nation willing
to meet the 21st century standards of the TPP -- including China."

Dr Supachai, meanwhile, said Thailand would potentially benefit more under
trade liberalisation talks already under way between Asean, China, Korea
and Japan (Asean+3), as well as a separate pact that would combine the
Asean+3 with India, Australia and New Zealand.

The TPP, he said, was a "next-generation" free-trade agreement more
advanced than the one laid out under the Doha round of the World Trade
Organisation. The TPP covers issues such as intellectual property and
pharmaceuticals, labour and the environment.

"Thailand may lack policy space [under the TPP]. Neither China nor Japan
have entered the TPP talks, and there is a concern that there may be
imbalances between the large members and the smaller ones," said Dr
Supachai, a former Thai deputy prime minister and WTO chief.

"Ultimately, the US is leading the direction of the TPP."

Withoon Lianchamroon, director of the BioThai Foundation, a non-profit
group working on alternative agriculture, voiced concern that the TPP would
force Thailand to adopt genetically modified (GM) crops as US companies
have almost 80% market of GM business.

Suthy Prasartset, an independent political economist, urged the government
to consult the Bank of Thailand before entering negotiations as the pact
could affect capital flows and financial services.

"Mr Obama is coming here to protect the befenefits of IT and drug
companies. The trade deal has clearly shown that US-based companies must
get the maximum benefit from the free trade pact," he said.

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