Government still mulling Pacific free trade agreement amid public backlash

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The cabinet is still considering its next steps over whether or not to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the government said Thursday, amid increasing calls online to back out of the deal.

“During the cabinet meeting held on Wednesday, there was no approval for Thailand to seek further negotiations,” said Ratchada Thanadirek, the government’s deputy spokeswoman.

The cabinet only gave the nod to extend an additional 50 days for the International Economic Policy Committee and related agencies to conduct a study on whether to join the pact, she added.

Late Wednesday the hashtag #NoCPTPP was trending on Thai Twitter with widespread concerns that the move would harm many of local businesses especially the agriculture and healthcare sectors.

Sudarat Keyuraphan, a former chairwoman of Pheu Thai Party’s strategic committee, posted on Twitter that joining the CPTPP will affect most Thai small businesses. “Medicine will be more expensive and farmers will have to purchase seeds from the capitalists only,” she said.

The CPTPP was set up in 2018 to remove trade barriers among 11 Asia-Pacific countries, including Japan, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam. It replaced the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was signed in 2016 but never implemented after the US withdrew under the Trump administration.

Thailand has expressed a possible interest in joining since 2018.

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