Bangkok Post | 28/04/2009
China trade gets new push
By: MANOP THIP-OSOD
Members of the two houses have endorsed a framework for broadening the scope of cooperation and trade with China.
At a joint parliamentary meeting yesterday, 282 MPs and senators voted in favour of the framework put forward by the Commerce Ministry; 12 voted against and 55 abstained.
Some members expressed concern that the pact could put Thailand at a disadvantage and further widen the trade deficit with China.
They said the framework would mean more low-priced Chinese agricultural goods exempt from tariffs flooding the Thai market while Thai agricultural exports to China remained subject to certain barriers.
The free trade agreement with China, which took effect in October 2003, has led to the elimination of tariffs on many fruits and vegetables.
Democrat list MP Kraisak Choonhavan yesterday said the disadvantage suffered by Thailand under the framework was an oversight on the part of the Commerce Ministry, which paid little attention to the details of the agreement.
Mr Kraisak said the new framework would only further affect farmers in the North who are already suffering under the FTA deal.
Farmers in the North could not sell their farm produce to China and 70% of them are now deep in debt as a result of the Thai-China FTA, he said.
Chon Buri senator Surachai Chaitrakulthong said he was concerned the agreement would further widen the trade deficit with China.
Trat senator Supoj Liadprathom criticised the government, particularly the Commerce Ministry, for not doing enough to help farmers and traders.
The ministry should go beyond its role as a price regulator by drawing on more academic research to help them, Mr Supoj said.
Puea Thai MP for Chiang Rai Itthidej Kaewluang suggested the government begin talks with China to establish a Chinese consulate in Chiang Rai and a Thai consulate near Kunming to facilitate travel and trade between the two countries.