PM urged to take trade deal to parliament

Bangkok Post | 24 September 2007

PM urged to take trade deal to parliament

Thailand’s Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont should think carefully before effecting the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA) on November 1 without legislative body approval because such an action could violate the constitution, according to the FTA Watch group, even as Thai restaurant owners in the Japanese capital are urging early implementation of the trade pact to ease a critical shortage of Thai chefs.

Consumer Protection Foundation manager Saree Ongsomwang, a core member of the group, told a press conference on Sunday that the FTA Watch group opposed the government’s decision to exchange a diplomatic note with Japan on October 2 to put JTEPA into effect without deliberation by the National Legislative Assembly.

The government’s move is a breach of Article 190 Paragraph 2 of the constitution that requires prior approval from NLA should be sought for contracts on trade, investment or the national budget.

Ms. Saree said the premier might be following a Council of State ruling that a JTEPA exchange note need not be deliberated by the NLA, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has warned the cabinet that the diplomatic note might violate Article 190 of the charter.

The prime minister must review the matter urgently and present it for NLA consideration by NLA, or the FTA-Watch Group is prepared to petition the Constitutional Court.

Bantoon Setsiroj, another core group member, said the premier had recently announced he was ready to resign if the Constitutional Court rules against the government’s decision.

"His announcement does not help solve any problem. Mr. Bantoon said, referring to the premier’s statement. "Worse still, it may be seen as a pressure put on the court."

Postponement the implementation of JTEPA will not adversely affect the Thai business sector. In contrast, Mr. Bantoon said, it would help restore confidence that Thailand operates democratically and transparently.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, some members of the Thai-Japan business community are saying that early implementation of JTEPA will help ease a shortage of Thai chefs and cut the tariff on raw materials

If JEPTA is put into affect on November it will help ease the shortage of Thai chefs and cut the import tariff on raw materials considerably, according to an owner of Thai restaurants in Japan.

Pimjai Matsumoto, who owns seven Thai restaurants in Tokyo, said JTEPA would benefit Thai restaurants in Japan, which had suffered from the shortage of skilled chefs.

She said many Thai restaurants in the Japanese capital had to shut down although more Japanese people favour Thai foods after Chinese and Italian ones at present.

Mrs. Pimjai added that JTEPA would also help reduce an import tariff on raw materials used for production of Thai foods to zero from an average of 30 per cent at present.

Both the business of Thai restaurants in Japan and the Thai government’s policy to promote the country as the kitchen of the world would benefit by early adoption of the JEPTA measures.

Commerce Minister Krirkkrai Jirapaet begins a visit to Tokyo on Wednesday and will meet with Thai restaurant owners in Japan later in his visit. (TNA)

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source: Bangkok Post