The Thai government’s announcement that it wishes to join the Trans-Pacific partnership negotiations during a visit byPresident Obama came out of the blue, according to University of Auckland Professor Jane Kelsey who monitors the negotiations.
"Not that Thailand will join the negotiations any time soon. The existing (now 11) countries will each make demands and will seek a high price for simply getting to the table. If it follows the process for Canada and Mexico, Thailand will be in the extraordinary position of having to accept any existing agreed text, sight unseen", she said.
Professor Kelsey observed that there is little commercial benefit for New Zealand from Thailand’s participation as there is already a bilateral free trade agreement between the two countries, as well as the Australia New Zealand ASEAN FTA.
The US will be the principal ‘demandeur’, with a long list of highly sensitive demands that will massively hike the price of medicines, create rights for big box retailers like Walmart at the expense of locals markets, and changes to land ownership laws.
"Thailand has been down this track before" according to Professor Kelsey. "Opposition to fraught negotiations for the Thailand US FTA was part of the backdrop to the coup that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin in 2006."
Changes to the Constitution in 2007 were designed to make it much more difficult for a Thai government to enter such an agreement.
Thailand’s Human Rights Commission produced a stinging report in 2006 that likened the potential impact of the FTA to "a tsunami that crashes to the shore without warning when one is not prepared to deal".
"Critics of this agreement will welcome Thailand’s participation, as it will make an already complex deal even more difficult to conclude and bring Thailand’s well-informed analysts, politicians and NGOs into the multi-country campaign to stop the TPPA".
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