PSI affiliates from Thailand welcome the decision of the government of Thailand not to apply to join the controversial Comprehensive and Progressive Transpacific Partnership (CPTPP) in August 2020. One of the most ambitious frameworks to liberalise and deregulate the economies of the participating countries, the CPTPP poses devastating impacts on public healthcare, on peasants and the agriculture sector, and generally on the Thai economy - a concern held by the PSI Thailand Affiliates Committee (PTAC) along with other trade unions.
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PSI affiliates from Thailand welcome the decision of the government of Thailand not to apply to join the controversial Comprehensive and Progressive Transpacific Partnership (CPTPP) in August 2020. The PSI Thailand Affiliates Committee (PTAC) agree with other trade unions that joining the pact would have devastating impacts on public healthcare, on peasants and the agricultural sector, and on the Thai economy.
The CPTPP is one of the most ambitious frameworks to liberalise and deregulate the economies of the countries involved. “While Thailand was not part of the initial process, the government of Thailand expressed its intention to join the deal. But this was received with strong opposition from civil society and trade unions because the treaty is designed to extend and concentrate corporate power at the expense of people’s rights”, said Mr. Jinda Wongprayoonsri, Chairperson of PTAC.
On the back of these protests, parties in opposition pushed for an ad-hoc Parliamentary Committee to be constituted to review the possible impacts of Thailand joining the CPTPP. The Thai Cabinet agreed to the creation of this committee in June, with a mandate to look at the possible impacts of CPTPP on access to medicines, on the right to food, and on the economy. The Committee was to report back to parliament on 10 August.
The national center of public sector workers, State Enterprise Workers' Relations Confederation (SERC), made a submission to the committee and to the Prime Minister of Thailand on 14 July 2020. “The letter raised concerns in relation to the implications of joining CPTPP on public healthcare. The letter warned of the threats to the domestic medicines industry, provisions that would lead to increased costs of medicines, multiple challenges to the functioning and role of the Government Pharmaceutical Organization and therefore impacting on the health budget. In the end, health workers and patients will be affected,” said Mrs. Mulika Loonjak, Chairperson of NUOT.
In addition, the letter warns of the implications for peasants and farmers, especially the threat of cheaper imports from partner countries. The deal would lead to peasants losing the right to keep and share seeds while making it easier for private companies to own patents on seeds. As a result, incomes will decrease and cost of cultivation will increase, threatening livelihoods in a sector with huge numbers of informal and self-employed workers.
“We are particularly concerned about the investor protection provisions and Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism that allows foreign investors to sue the government through international arbitration for compensation awards amounting to millions or even billions of dollars,” added Mr. Jinda. “PTAC is a member of SERC and PTAC agrees with the concerns raised by SERC.”
PSI has engaged with unions in Thailand and in the region to stop the ratification of and expansion of membership of the CPTPP, including by co-organising a webinar on the implications of the CPTPP to people’s health in Thailand. As the government could not reach a consensus to join the deal, Thailand did not apply for membership in time for the 5 August annual meeting of CPTPP members.
“PTAC welcomes this outcome and will continue to support the movement against CPTPP and other harmful free trade agreements,” said Mr Jinda. “This is a great win for unions and the public who campaigned against an agreement that would put profits before people’s health and rights. The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn within countries and globally have exposed even more the harm that these trade rules, such as those enshrined in the CPTPP, inflict on the government’s capacity to intervene for the public interest, be it in the face of a health emergency or in planning for economic recovery. The pandemic has reinforced the need for governments to keep control of policy space for public good and to reject the corporate agenda in trade agreements. We hope for other governments, particularly those yet to ratify the CPTPP like Malaysia, to follow suit.”