[Ip-health] EU free-trade talk plans firm
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Wed Mar 6 23:51:07 PST 2013
*EU free-trade talk plans firm*
- Published: 7 Mar
- Newspaper section:
Thailand is preparing to enter free-trade talks with the European Union
despite opposition by health activists.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the
first negotiations on a proposed free trade agreement will take place in
Brussels in May. Talks will then be organised at least every quarter,
including in Bangkok.
The negotiations will last more than one year, Mr Kittiratt said.
He was accompanying Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on a visit to
Belgium and Sweden.
Mr Kittiratt said the government will treat the public's health as a
priority in the negotiations.
He said the government's representative have agreed to meet activists
during the FTA negotiations.
The cabinet approved the framework of the negotiations on Dec 4 last year.
The government has appointed Olarn Chaiprawat, the Thai trade
representative, as head of the negotiation team.
Mr Olarn, who joined Ms Yingluck on the visit yesterday, said he had met
Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, to introduce
himself. He estimated the negotiations would take no longer than two years.
The Board of Investment secretary-general Udom Wongviwatchai said the
Thai-EU FTA will benefit the economy.
Thailand will be disadvantaged if it fails to sign the pact as several
countries including Singapore have reached an agreement with the EU.
International health activist groups said yesterday they opposed Thailand's
decision to join the FTA negotiations.
Health Action International Europe, Oxfam International, and Action against
AIDS Germany said they were worried about the effect the FTA could have on
access to medicines. They said the EUs position on intellectual property
protection in previous FTAs, including earlier failed negotiations between
the EU and Asean, suggest the EU will push for intellectual property
standards that go beyond Thailand's World Trade Organisation (WTO)
obligations and will limit access to medicines.
The group is also concerned the EU is likely to introduce investor-state
dispute provisions. Under these provisions drug companies could claim
government health regulations undermine their IP-related investments. This
could lead to drug firms suing the government, and may limit the chances of
the government taking measures to reduce the cost of medicines.
"The EU should ensure its trade policy is in line with its development
objectives, including specifically enhancing access to medicines," the
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