Should the country sacrifice long-term public health interests and sovereign rights to issue public interest laws and regulations for the short-term monetary gains of big business?
This is the question the Commerce Ministry must ponder when negotiating Thailand's bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU). Now that parliament has approved the draft framework of the Thai-EU FTA, all eyes are now on the ministry as to how it will protect the national interest amid concerns raised by public health authorities and civic groups that big business interests will prevail over the common good.
The Thai-EU FTA is a comprehensive free trade package which will have significant impacts on drug prices, farming costs and the government's sovereign right to issue public interest policies. Yet the Department of Trade Negotiations (DTN) decided to keep its draft framework a secret. It was under this secrecy that the Thai-EU FTA draft framework was sent to parliament in December last year.
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