[Ip-health] CSO's Thailand-EU FTA campaign kick-off

Jockey jockey.kit at gmail.com
Wed Feb 27 14:04:30 PST 2013

Today (Feb 28) is the day of action in Bangkok to kick off the civil
society's campaign on the scrutiny of the Thailand-EU FTA negotiation.
It's expected to have 1000 people from diverse networks (e.g. people living
with HIV/AIDs, small-scale farmer, labor, slum community, consumer groups,
anti-alcohol groups, IDU, LGBT, etc.) joining the demonstration at the
Prime Minister's office.

Below is the English translation version of the joint statement of the
civil society networks raised to the Thai Prime Minister and the Head of
the Thai Delegation of the Thailand-EU FTA Negotiation.

Best regards,

*Reasons of the Civil Society’s Campaign Kick-off to Scrutinize the
Thailand-EU FTA Negotiation*

* *

*Speedy-and-careless Negotiating Framework Drafted by the Ministry of
Commerce *

The Thai government is going to officially begin the negotiation on the
Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) on March 6-7.  This
FTA talk will cover several matters that have never been discussed in other
FTAs before.  All those matters, including intellectual property in
medicines and biodiversity, foreign investment’s protection and arbitration
for international dispute settlement between state and the private sector,
and goods harmful to health (e.g. alcohol and cigarette), have severe
impacts in diverse aspects.  Thus, it is compelled to attain the
Parliament’s endorsement and to pursue consultation process according to
the Constitution’s Section 190.

However, all the procedures – the public’s consultation, the negotiation’s
preparation, the negotiating framework’s drafting, and the consideration by
the Cabinet and the Parliament, were riddled with flaws. So does the
negotiation’s content.  Several concerns over long-lasting adverse effects
to the society were neglected.

The Commerce Ministry cited that it ran over 60 times of nationwide
consultation meeting.  But, a draft of the negotiating framework had never
been shared in those public hearings at all.  Only a board question of
“what people think about FTAs” had been thrown to people participating in
the hearings.  Moreover, concerns and recommendation raised in the
consultations were not taken into account or included in the negotiating
framework that was already endorsed the Parliament.

The negotiation to begin has not take considerable factors into account,
which include the country’s development level, sustainability, the
country’s safeguard mechanism, legal preparedness in the country,
adjustment’s lead time, and safety net measures for the unpleasant impact.

*Nurturing the Immature Industry*

   1. The negotiation blindly aims to sustain the country’s Generalized
   System of Preference (GSP).  Despite the fact that Thailand’s GSP will
   be cut off in the near future, it is because Thailand is no longer eligible
   to the EU’s GSP – Thailand’s per capita income has moved up to the
   upper-middle level for three years in a row and its export has taken over
   the market larger than 17.5%.   Without the GSP, it does not mean that
   Thailand will totally lose its revenue from the export to the EU, amounting
   to Baht 2.97 hundred billion.  Instead, it’s estimated that only Baht
   79,422 will be dropped due to the GSP removal.  And, the ongoing
   Eurozone crisis is also a key factor to be considered and its impact will
   discourage Thailand from earning great income from the export to the EU.
   2. The Thai government ambitiously set the timeframe to have ten rounds
   of negotiation within 1.5 years to complete the FTA negotiation with the EU
   – this is to ensure it will be able to renew the EU’s GSP in time in early
   2015.  Such swift timeframe undermines its power in the negotiation with
   the EU.
   3. The industrial sector’s demands – not to riase the bar of labor
   protection, environmental protection, and measures to address climate
   change, are well accepted by the government.

*Neglecting the Impact on People’s Lives and Livelihoods *

   1. *If Thailand accepts the stricter intellectual property (IP)
   conditions on medicines*, the lifesaving medicines’ market will be taken
   over longer.  The medicines’ prices will be tremendously expensive due
   to lack of competition.  A great number of patients will not be able to
   access to necessary medicines.  Health budget’s burden will increase
   significantly and the country’s health insurance program will be at risk to
   collapse, because of the high medicine cost.
   2. *If we allow strict IP protection on biodiversity*, it paves the way
   to favor the multinational corporations to take over the seed supply.  It’ll
   result in high production costs in the agriculture sector and definitely an
   increase in food’s prices.
   3. *If we free the foreign investment in natural resources and
   agriculture and overprotect the foreign investors*, small-scale farmers
   will be vulnerable to lose their control in production assets and become
   farming labors in their own lands.  Food’s supply chain and food prices
   will be under control of the multinational food industry.
   4. While the lifesaving medicines are so expensive, *goods harmful to
   health (e.g. alcohol and tobacco) will be greatly benefited from the tariff
   reduction*.  They will be sold at cheap prices and encourage the larger
   number of new-face drinkers or smokers, who are at risk to chronic
   morbidity.   The FTA will also restrict the state’s policy enforcement
   and its legislation to control alcohol’s and tobacco’s consumption.
   5. FTAs with the condition of the* international dispute settlement
   mechanisms* is a great barrier preventing the government to legislate
   and/or enforce laws and policies in order to safeguard its citizens in the
   matters of public health, consumer’s protection, environment, farming, and
   small medium enterprise.  If the government imposes a policy undermining
   the foreign investors’ earning, it allows the investors to sue the
   government for compensations and/or the policy revocation in the
   international arbitration, rather than a court in the country.
   6. FTAs with restrictions on IP more stringent than the World Trade
   Organization’s standard will as well hinder* access to knowledge through
   books and the online cyber world*.

To ensure that the whole nation will truly achieve the benefits out of the
FTA between Thailand and the EU by recognizing the balance of the benefits
and the adverse impact on people who are directly affected by the FTA and
also people in general, we are urging Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra, the Prime
Minister, and Mr. Olarn Chaipravat, the Thailand-EU FTA negotiation team’s
leader, to give the social commitment before the public that  the
Thailand-EU FTA negotiation’s delegation must have the firm negotiation’s
positions that:

1.    Thailand shall not accept the content of the Thailand-EU FTA
negotiation on intellectual property that is stricter than the World Trade
Organization’s TRIPS Agreement, which is known as TRIPS-plus provisions
including patent term extension, data exclusivity, and border measures.  And,
the existing biodiversity protection law, that is already complied with
TRIPS Agreement and Convention on Biological Diversity, must remain

2.    The international dispute settlement mechanism in the investment
chapter must not be applied to the disputes over social investment, policy
enforcement and legislation to safeguard the public’s interests,
environment protection, and policies on public health, infrastructure, and
security by, using the international arbitration.

3.    Investments affecting natural resources, farming, aquaculture, plant
propagation, and food security, shall not be freed.

4.    Alcohol and tobacco must be removed out of the negotiation.

   1. Consultation with all the stakeholder sectors’ participation shall be
   carried out prior to and after every round of the negotiation.  In the
   consultation meeting, the negotiation team must also declare the positions
   and the progress of the negotiation, and take recommendation from the
   stakeholders’ consultation into account and comply with the recommendation
   by balancing different interests of all the stakeholders.

FTA Watch

The Thai Network of People living with HIV/AIDS (TNP+)

Thai NGO Coalition on AIDS

Foundation for AIDS Rights

AIDS ACCESS Foundation

Renal Failure Patient Group

Cancer Patient Group

Drug Study Group

Foundation for Consumers

Rural Pharmacists Foundation

Thai Holistic Health Foundation

BioThai Foundation

Alternative Agriculture Network  (AAN)

Ecological Alert and Recovery – Thailand (EARTH)

Assembly of the Poor

4 regions of Slum Network

Harm Reduction Working Network (12D)

Stopdrink Network

Alcohol’s Danger Protection Campaign Network

The Network of Community Affected by Alcohol

The Network of the Alcohol’s Danger Surveillance in Bangkok

The Youth Network of the New Drinkers’ Protection

Health & Development Foundation

Focus on the Global South

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