By ERICH PARPART
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an integrated-market policy option that the government should start to look at more seriously, according to business directors and the adviser to the Thailand Development Research Institute.
They argue that this would be a wise move, not least because the immediate economic benefits of the upcoming Asean Economic Community (AEC) will be much less than many companies think.
Wiwan Tharahirunchote, director and adviser to the Thai Financial Planners Association, said each sector would be impacted differently if the Kingdom were to join the TPP, and she urged the government to revisit the TPP idea since circumstances had changed since it was last officially considered.
“The government should take the initiative and I want it to pay closer attention to TPP participation, since what was studied about the TPP before was based on different circumstances from where we are now. There would be winners and losers from participation, and that should be studied more carefully, while we should be really certain that the Thai economy would be able to survive without this deal,” she explained.
Veerathai Santiprabhob, adviser to the Thailand Development Research Institute, said many companies had fallen for the “AEC trap” by thinking that there would be major positive economic changes resulting from the coming into effect of the AEC at the year’s end.
“The thinking that the launch of the AEC by the end of this year is something that is positive for the economy is currently the most dangerous illusion for Thailand … The free movement of capital and labour and freedom of investment are not going to happen [for some time], since Thailand and other countries in the AEC have yet to change their regulations,” he stressed.
He said any major changes related to bringing the AEC single market into being had already been undertaken two to five years ago, and the only thing the country could probably look forward to come the end of the year was the lowering of import tariffs in CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) countries.
Veerathai said Asean, the AEC and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) were not really going anywhere right now, because there was no clear leader to take them forward, especially the RCEP.
China is currently busy back home and Japan has already jumped on the TPP bandwagon, while Singapore and Malaysia are both now gunning to reach the global standard instead of just trying to be leaders within Asean, he added.
He also said the TPP had more impact on the global supply chain as it covered more than one region.
“Vietnam would have Asean, AEC, RCEP and TPP incentives, along with the country’s free-trade agreement with the European Union, while Thailand would only have Asean, the AEC and the RCEP, which is not going anywhere. When investors look at a country, they will also look at these incentives,” he said.
“Nobody moved away [from the Kingdom] after the major flood in 2012, but no new products or investment are coming this way either, and our country is now falling behind in terms of product competitiveness. Without a TPP deal, we might fall even further behind,” he warned.