"Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to announce on Friday Japan's intention to join negotiations for an ambitious trans-Pacific free-trade pact, a move that launches the final—and possibly most important—phase of his economic agenda: long-term growth strategies", reports the 14 March 2013 on-line edition of the Asian Wall Street Journal. This will, in turn, put further pressure on Thailand, which previously said it would "consider" joining the negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as reported on this site here.
Japan is the biggest investor in Thailand, the U.S. is heavily involved in promoting the TPP and other Asian economies, such as Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, are actively involved in TPP negotiations. If successful, the TPP will create the most important regional trading group in Asia Pacific. It will also require participants to significantly liberalize their economies by, among other things, enacting the following reforms:
- Opening up to foreign investment and ownership of local businesses, a matter that would require a major change to Thai laws on foreign investment.
- Major and real reform of customs and excise laws and practices.
- Measures to ensure non-discrimination, a minimum standard of treatment, rules on expropriation, including investor-state arbitration, a very controversial issue in Thailand.
- The promotion of transparency and efficiency in the processing of applications for temporary entry to perform work – another matter which will require major reform in Thailand.
Further, contrary to some reports in the local press on the TPP, Thailand would need to seek approval from other members of the current TPP negotiations to join in the TPP negotiations. Thailand would first need to agree, at least in principle, to make these major reforms before it joins the negotiations. And if it fails to join the negotiations, it will fall outside a Asia-Pacific's largest free trade zone; a free trade zone that will include the U.S., many of Thailand's neighbors and now, apparently, Japan.
On 4 and 5 March, 11 countries participated in TPP negotiations in Singapore: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Meanwhile, earlier this month, Thailand also announced it will conclude negotiations of a Free Trade Agreement with the EU within two years – see here. Earlier this year, the U.S. and the E.U entered into free trade talks. The BBC reports that the U.S. said "everything is on the table" in the talks.
Last update: 15 March 2013