Civil society network resumes opposition to Thai-US FTA pact

posted 13-January-2006

MCOT News, Thailand

Civil society network resumes opposition to Thai-US FTA pact

13 January 2006

BANGKOK, Jan 13 (TNA) - The network of 11 civil society organisations which showed its opposition to the Thai-US Free Trade Area (FTA) negotiations earlier this week in Chiang Mai Friday reaffirmed its intention to continue protesting the talks.

Network activists said its protest will continue because the US will apply a comprehensive tariff approach — which they claim puts Thailand at a disadvantage.

Nimitr Thien-udom, who heads ACCESS, an NGO focusing on HIV-AIDS issues, said the alliance stands by its earlier position against the ongoing negotiations because Thailand will lose more than it gains from the agreement.

Mr. Nimitr said the US seeks to take advantage of any country, be it Thailand or Malaysia, when it comes to implementing FTAs.

"The US negotiating team applies a one-size-fits all approach to goods across one sector, without concessions or flexibility, and often cites US Federal law as the basis for negotiation," said Banthoon Sethsirot, an advisor to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, speaking from his experience of observing environmental sector negotiations.

"This amounts to imposing one country’s law upon others and this is not trade negotiation, " Mr. Banthoon said. "To negotiate under such terms puts Thailand at a disadvantage in every aspect."

Kamol Upakaew, Chairman of the Network of People Living with HIV-AIDS, said "the US demands far too much" when it asks for pharmaceutical patents to be protected for 25-30 years, from the internationally agreed period of 20 years under WTO practice.

This would result in a five-year delay in the entry of generic drugs to the market thereby imposing extra financial burden for anti-retroviral drugs for people living with HIV-AIDS, he said.

Ubol Yuwah from the Alternative Farming Network said Thai farmers will be affected if patenting of life forms such as jasmine rice is allowed as a result of the FTA agreement.

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