BANGKOK — U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies today welcomed Thailand to join a Washington-backed regional trade agreement, but stressed it would first need to meet the pact’s “high standards.”
Speaking to the media three days after Bangkok expressed a high interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, Davies said the kingdom’s internal political climate would not be a barrier for Thailand to become the 13th member to the free trade agreement reached in October between Pacific Rim nations, which comprise 40 percent of the global GDP.
“I think it is important to separate politics from free trade,” he said. “Our humble suggestion is Thailand should take a look at the 2,000 pages of TPP standards.”
Davies returned several times in his comments to the kingdom’s need to rise to such standards, including labor violations, human trafficking and other persistent problems the military government has vowed – and wavered – to tackle.
On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said at a Tokyo press conference that the junta is analyzing the effects of joining the agreement., nearly two months after a draft agreement was reached Oct. 5 that would slash tariffs in the market reaching about 800 million people.
That agreement was reached after seven years of negotiations.
Somkid, who was put in charge of economic policy after an August cabinet reshuffle, said chances were “high” Thailand would seek to join.
Davies said Thailand could enter negotiations once it applies and prepares internal processes for complying the agreement’s mandates.
A Kasikorn Bank analysis previously suggested the Thai government would need to fully resolve human trafficking issues, as the United States refused to negotiate with countries it in the bottom tier of its annual report on human trafficking. Thailand this year was ranked Tier 3 for the second consecutive year in the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report.
Davies Draws Fire
In his comments today at the GPF Witthayu Towers across from the U.S. Embassy, the top American envoy tried to stay on-topic.
Davies declined to answer questions about comments he made last week regarding Thailand’s harsh penalties for lese majeste (defaming the monarchy). Although those comments were consistent with previous American diplomats, they prompted ultra-nationalists to demand Washington recall him in a small protest Saturday and organized rallies around the country today.
Davies said today he would not address political matters, but said he hopes Thailand can soon return to democracy, so the partnership between both nations could return to their fullest levels of cooperation.
Davies also said the United States supports the relationship between Bangkok and Beijing and doesn’t worry it is losing Thailand to China.
“I don’t worry about Thailand’s relationship with Beijing. It is a good thing for Thailand to have a relationship with China,” he said.
Junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said Wednesday that Thailand was likely to join TPP, but expressed displeasure after Davies’ comments at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.
Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan today suggested that Davies should “think before speaking.”
“I don’t think any government that came from a coup d’etat would give this much human rights,” he said. “We let them do everything.”
Davies today expressed his respect for the King and said he’d participate in the Bike for Dad cycling event.