Senators want to screen FTA deals

The Nation, Bangkok

Senators want to screen FTA deals

18 March 2004

By Rungrawee C Pinyorat

A group of senators yesterday called for the government to seek
parliamentary approval before signing any more free-trade agreements (FTAs).

Niran Phitakwachara, chairman of the Senate committee on social
development and human security, said FTAs could affect Thai sovereignty
and many sectors of society. They could also compel the government to
amend laws.

Many senators have strongly criticised the rush to sign trade pacts and
its non-transparent handling of negotiations, saying deals made by
armchair officials have already cost the nation’s small-scale farmers
dearly.

According to Article 214 of the Constitution, any activities that would
affect sovereignty need to be endorsed by Parliament, he said, adding
that the United States has a mechanism that Congress must be notified
before the administration begins any FTA talks.

The Senate committee on foreign affairs, chaired by Kraisak Chon-havan,
yesterday invited FTA negotiating team chiefs to clarify the progress of
trade-pact talks.

Kraisak said he strongly disagreed with the reduction of tariffs on
agricultural products, saying the influx of Chinese produce into the
country as a result of the Sino-Thai FTA had hurt northern farmers.

Tariffs on more than 5,000 fruits and vegetables imported from China
were waived in October as part of the first phase of a larger trade
accord between the nations.

The government has set up a committee headed by Narongchai Akrasanee to
find ways to mitigate the impacts of FTAs, especially on small farmers,
said Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, the vice commerce minister.

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