Thailand Considering Joining CPTPP

A path to post-COVID economic recovery . . .

Thailand’s Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB) has announced that it supports the country becoming a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), seeing it as a means for coping with the economic repercussions of COVID-19 by boosting trade and expanding investment opportunities. The Committee's support was announced after a month-long study of the agreement, which ultimately concluded that the CPTPP would provide sufficient benefits by opening the door to 11 economies – including Canada – representing 495 million consumers and 13.5 per cent of global GDP.

Opposition from the agriculture and health-care sectors . . .

Thailand’s Commerce Ministry proposed joining the CPTPP in April, but withdrew the proposal after coming under pressure from the country’s pharmaceutical and agricultural sectors, which raised concerns about the CPTPP’s provisions on intellectual property. For the agricultural sector, the provisions limit access to seeds that contain patented plant material. For pharmaceuticals, the provisions include compulsory licensing rights that would limit the ability of domestic firms to manufacture some patented products.

Further CPTPP expansion?

Japan, a CPTPP member, has been trying to get both Thailand and Malaysia on board as additional bloc members, seeing their participation as a way to lessen its own dependence on China. It has also shown its support for the U.K. joining the trade bloc. As much of the world faces a steep economic recession, diversifying trade away from markets like the U.S. and China could be a way to recover, particularly for Canada, which is deeply reliant on both. The CPTPP provides opportunities for Canada and other members to eliminate tariffs imposed by countries with which they do no share existing trade agreements. As such, Canada should join Japan in actively engaging in expanding the CPTPP.