Civil society cautions Thai Ministers about Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Recommendations to Thai Commerce Minister

AIDS Access Foundation, FTA Watch and other civil society organizations caution Thai government against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

On 31 May 2016, Free Trade Agreement Watch (FTA Watch) and five civil society organizations in Thailand, had a meeting with Mrs. Apiradi Tantraporn, the Minister of Commerce about the government decision to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The meeting took place at the Office of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Commerce.

FTA Watch and the civil society organizations had the following recommendations to the Thai government:

  1. The Ministry of Commerce and relevant ministries, especially the Ministry of Public Health, should disclose information from commissioned studies, including numerical data regarding the pros and cons of the TPP’s potential impacts on all the sectors. This information should be public and offer a chance for society and the academic community to verify the information presented in studies used by the government.
  2. The government should organize an open debate about the information in the studies and the expected benefits and adverse impacts on signing the TPP, so that other groups can help identify gaps in the information necessary for sound decision making, about whether or not to join the TPP.
  3. The government should declare how they will respond to the dramatic increase in the health budget if the government decides to join the TPP. Due to the TPP’s obligations, the country has to accept market exclusivity on medicines, that will be given patent extensions of 1-10 years. In contrast with information from a government commissioned that claims Thailand’s GDP will increase by 0.77% the Ministry of Public Health estimates that Thailand will have to allocate an additional budget of 2,835 – 288,266 million Baht each year to adsorb increased costs on medicines. The national health insurance system, which takes care of over 48 million citizens, will be affected. How will the government prepare for this, and take responsibility for the impact of this, and what are the intended remedies?
  4. The government should conduct “Regulatory Impact Assessment” of the TPP as the Law Reform Commission of Thailand recommends. The government should make public whether it has conducted a study to understand precisely how the impact of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement will affect Thailand’s ability to protect its own and the public interests. For example, it will not be possible to refuse a license renewal for a gold mine that has caused serious environmental and public health damage. It will also not be able to implement consumer protection policies as the government will be sued for compensation and revocation of the policies, through international arbitration mechanisms. As a member of the ICSID, international arbitration will overrule Thailand’s own judicial system.
  5. Policy makers should not make decisions based on their personal judgments and bias, as this will result in long-term impacts and obligations for successive generations. Such a decision should be based on comprehensive, accurate and balanced information. It is essential that four recommendations above are implemented, in order to present all the necessary information for the consideration of the International Economic Policy Commission’s and the Cabinet’s
  6. In the meantime, amendments of laws, gazettes, and regulations to comply with the demands of the powerful countries should be resisted, including the Patent Act, Plant Varieties Act, Government Procurement Act, gazettes and regulations on the control of beef importation from the countries with BSE risk, the control of agonist compounds used in pork, warning labeling on alcoholic drinks, and a draft Act about the control of marketing of infant food and related products. All of these amendments are undermining the agriculture sector, local wisdom, and consumer and public health protection.

FTA Watch and the civil society organizations that monitor free trade agreement negotiations would like to urge economic policy makers and relevant ministers to make decisions on the participation in the TPP based on the balance of pros and cons, rather than only focusing on the potential economic impact of the TPP.

Civil society organizations’ representatives in the meeting with the Commerce Minister were:
1. Mr Anan Mauengmonchai, Chairperson, the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS
2. Mr Chalermsak Kittitrakul and Ms. Sangsiri Teemanka, AIDS Access Foundation
3. Mr Vitoon Lianjamroon, Director, Biothai
4. Dr Hatai Chitanon and Mr. Vasin Pipatanachat, Thai Health Promotion Institute
5. Mr Kamron Choodacha, Stopdrink Network
6. Ms Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul, FTA Watch