Bangkok Post | 5 September 2006
Farmers must have a say in talks on free trade agreements
Khao Sod Editorial — Farmers and small-scale manufacturers should be allowed to participate in negotiations for free trade agreements (FTAs) to ensure their survival.
FTAs previously signed between Thailand and foreign trading partners may have benefited consumers and certain business sectors, but they spelled disaster for small farmers and manufacturers unable to compete with cheaper foreign goods.
Thailand has signed FTAs with China, Australia, New Zealand and India.
In the first half of this year, Thailand’s trade with these four countries was worth nearly 660 billion baht.
While we had a trade deficit with China, we gained trade surpluses with the other three trading partners.
Moreover, the value of trade with the four countries went up significantly.
The deficit with China was smaller than in the same period of last year.
But the value of trade is not an issue here.
What we are concerned about is the impact of these FTAs on the poor farmers and small manufacturers.
Cheaper farm produce and goods from China and India have hurt the farmers and small manufacturers badly.
So far, there have been no measures to alleviate the plight of these affected people.
In all the four FTAs that Thailand has signed, only high-ranking civil servants and representatives of big business took part in the negotiations.
These big business people were privy to confidential information and could push for their own agendas. The farmers and small manufacturers were left out of the negotiations.
If this deal-making procedure continues, it will have long-term effects on the national economy and the public at large.
If the government insists on entering into more FTAs, it must let the farmers and small manufacturers have a voice in the negotiating process. They must have a chance to protect their interests.