Muddled trade policies hold back the country, researchers say

Economy September 21, 2017 01:00

By WICHIT CHAITRONG
THE NATION

RESEARCHERS have criticised the government for a lack of free-trade strategies and poorly organised trade institutions that are handicapping the country in international trade.



 “Due to a lack of effective trade strategies, we don’t know what are our priorities are and we want from free-trade negotiations,” said Suphat Suphachalasai, head of a research team that released a study titled “The development of institutional mechanism to support Thailand’s obligations according to international trade and investment agreements”.

The study was funded by the International Institute for Trade and Development.

The Thai government’s efforts were in start contrast with those of Singapore and South Korea, which have clear strategies on free trade negotiations, Suphat said yesterday at the ITD Research Forum 2017.

Currently, trade negotiations fall under the responsibility of Commerce Ministry’s Department of Trade Negotiations, which does not have much authority. 

The study also found that different state agencies have different objectives and there is lack of leadership concerning which agency would have the final say.

The FTA utilisation rate is also low partly because inefficient of information dissemination

“FTAs (free trade agreements) information provided by the website of the Commerce Ministry is very complicated, and small businesses would not understand it, “ Suphat said. 

The governments of South Korea and Singapores make FTA information more simple for the general public to understand and they have FTAs call centres that provide question and answer services for those who want to utilise the free trade agreements, but Thailand has no such FTA call centre.

Sudharma Yoonaidharma, dean of School of Law at University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the Thai authorities do not pay much attention to international laws and conventions although Thailand have agreed to many international agreements.

Thai court also did not take into account the national laws it just look at only domestic laws when it handed down verdict on trade and investment disputes, he noted.

In contrast, Singapore have established international court and could recruit specialists from abroad to sit on the judge panel. Singapore aims to be hub of international arbitration.

 Chayodom Sabhasri, an economist at Chulalongkorn University, said FTA utilisation rates by Thai exporters are not high.