Thailand could miss next round of CPTPP negotiation in August as the government needs more time

Thailand could miss the next round of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) negotiation in August, a government special committee said on Wednesday.

Veerakorn Kumprakob, Palang Pracharat Party’s MP who was put in charge of a special committee of 49 members to study the costs and benefits of the CPTPP, said that the country would likely miss the deadline because his committee needs more time to study the deal.

He added that the committee has agreed to extend the studying period for the bilateral trade agreement by 60 days. 

The current committee was set up on June 11. They initially had 30 days to study the deal before eventually coming to a decision to extend it by two more months.

The parliament will decide on the extension on July 10. 

Veerakorn said the committee still has concerns on various issues such as access to certain medicine, the mobility of workers and the set up of unions, as well as whether Thailand will be able to include rice trade in the deal.

Kannikar Kijtiwatchakul, vice-president of FTA Watch, said on Wednesday that her organisation agreed with the special committee’s decision to extend its studying period. 

She said many countries are also interested in joining the trade bloc including the United Kingdom, China, South Korea and Indonesia but they are all taking their time to study the deal.

The CPTPP Commission is set to meet every year. In 2020, it will be held on August 5 in Mexico. 

There are 11 countries currently involved in the negotiations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. 

Somchai Pakapaswiwat, an economist and independent analyst, told Thai Enquirer that there should be fewer concerns over the deal now that the US is not joining.

He said without US involvement, the concern over access to certain medicine has now dissipated. 

The worry over the inflow of US products from pigs has also disappeared, he added. 

However, they are still worried about meeting the new standard in many industries. 

As for concerns over intellectual property rights which could cause crop prices to significantly increase, he said that that could be raised during negotiations.

“Vietnam has asked for leniency on many regulations and they managed to even ask for a postponement of the enforcement of up to a decade for various cases,” he said. 

“This is why we should enter the negotiations so that we can ask to lower the risk from these negative factors through postponement and even exemption,” he added. 

Somchai said Thailand should consider the deal because it will increase Thailand’s trade competitiveness. 

He said this is crucial since Thailand is in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with Japan, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam, but while Japan, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam along with Malaysia are also members of the CPTPP, Thailand is not. 

“Whatever we send to Japan will immediately have a disadvantage since CPTPP’s standards are higher than RCEP and we will be blocked out and it is not their fault that we are going to be losing our neighbours,” he said.

He also pointed out that Vietnam already agreed on a free trade agreement with the European Union. 

The negotiation between Thailand and the EU, however, could still take another two years. This is a trade advantage that Vietnam already has over Thailand right now.

The JSCCIB, which consists of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), Thai Bankers’ Association, Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade of Thailand (TCC), also said in June that Thailand should join CPTPP negotiations.

If parliament approves of the special committee’s request for an additional two months to study the deal on July 10 then Thailand may have to wait until the next CPTPP Commission in 2021.

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