Thailand will apply this month to join the new trans-Pacific free trade agreement, aiming to ensure it is not left behind by its competitors in the vibrant region, according to the country’s trade negotiations chief.
“Thailand is working with the documents for applying to the CPTPP,” said Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department at the Commerce Ministry, referring to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership that entered into force last Dec 30 and currently involves 11 countries.
“We have planned to submit our application for joining the CPTPP before March 24,” she said, referring to the date of the general elections.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who is scheduled to visit Sendai, Hokkaido and Tokyo in the middle of this month, said earlier that he would officially announce the country’s plan to seek CPTPP membership during the trip.
Ms Auramon said a study conducted by her department on the benefits and impacts of CPTPP participation was positive, as were the results of public hearings conducted across the country.
The CPTPP currently comprises Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, most of which have ratified the agreement.
Several countries besides Thailand have also shown interest in joining the pact and a meeting held Jan 19 in Tokyo to discuss procedures to accept new members concluded that it will be “open to all economies” that can meet its high-standard rules.
Thailand’s application will need to be endorsed by at least half of the current members, Auramon explained. Its entry will then need to be ratified by the newly elected parliament.
According to the department’s study, she said, membership would lead to increased trade and investment for the country, while upgrading regulations and standards. It is also likely to secure Thailand’s position as a major manufacturing base for foreign-affiliated manufacturers.
Thailand is already participating in the Asean Free Trade Area, which includes CPTPP members Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. It also has bilateral FTAs with CPTPP participants Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
The CPTPP covers around 13% of the world’s gross domestic product and provides access to an economic bloc of 500 million people. It is designed to cut tariffs on agricultural and industrial products, ease investment restrictions and enhance intellectual property protection.
Its recent entry into force marked a critical milestone for the 11 countries that sought to save its older version, simply called the TPP, from collapse after US President Donald Trump pulled the world’s largest economy out of it.
TPP negotiations began in 2010 and the current members plus the United States signed an agreement in 2016 while Barack Obama was still president.
After the US pulled out, the remaining countries renamed and signed a revised version that suspended some provisions in the original TPP.