The Cabinet has decided to join talks on the US’s newly proposed multilateral trade agreement, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF).
According to the Thai government’s website, the decision will allow Thailand to join other countries which have expressed interest in negotiating rules and procedures for the IPEF. Some ASEAN members, such as Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, are keen to become IPEF founding members.
President Joe Biden plans to announce the IPEF in Tokyo on Monday, during his visit. Thailand will be included in the first batch of members. The Cabinet agreed on a statement on the IPEF which expressed the country’s desire to join the talks.
The Cabinet also made clear that the talks on the IPEF will focus on priorities that promote economic security and sustainable development in the Indo-Pacific region. These include trade, production chain resilience, clean energy, reduction of carbon dioxide, infrastructure, taxation, and fighting corruption.
If there are amendments to the US announcement, to parts which are not substantive or go against Thailand’s interests, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is allowed to consider them without further Cabinet approval, according to the government’s press release.
Thailand has been extremely cautious when entering free trade negotiations with the West, fearing that its domestic agriculture sector could be harmed. For several years, Thailand has been thinking seriously about holding talks regarding ascension to the Comprehensive and Progress Trans-Pacific Partnership, but the domestic situation has not allowed the government to proceed. Private sector and civil society organizations are still strongly opposed to Thailand joining any Western-initiated free trade arrangement.
Currently, Thailand has seven free trade agreements. The latest and largest is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which was signed last year. This, the world’s largest free trade agreement, took effect in January this year.