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06BANGKOK1317 THAILAND’S POLITICAL CRISIS AND THE FTA

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“55125”,”3/3/2006 3:55″,”06BANGKOK1317″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L BANGKOK 001317

 

SIPDIS

 

FOR D – DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK

FOR E – UNDER SECRETARY SHINER

FOR EAP – ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL

DEPARTMENT PASS USTR FOR AMBASSADOR PORTMAN

FROM THE AMBASSADOR

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/03/2016

TAGS: ETRD, TH, Thai Political Updates, US-Thai FTA

SUBJECT: THAILAND\’S POLITICAL CRISIS AND THE FTA

 

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce. Reason: E.O. 12958, 1.4 (b)

and (d)

 

1. (C) With Prime Minister Thaksin\’s February 24

dissolution of the Parliament and the calling of elections,

our FTA with Thailand is on hold. That may not be all bad:

the FTA was the one American component of the increasingly

vociferous anti-Thaksin campaign here, and the negotiations

hiatus has removed it (and the US) from the political line of

fire. The FTA is parked in what we believe to be a safe

place: what had been daily local media reports detailing one

or another dire threat posed by the FTA have now disappeared.

We also are close to finalizing arrangements for an

indefinite continuation of benefits provided to US investors

under our Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations (AER).

Keeping the FTA \”on hiatus\” is essential to this.

Considering the circumstances, this is a good outcome —

better than many possibilities we had feared.

 

2. (C) Thailand\’s political crisis continues to evolve in

unpredictable ways. The most probable scenarios, however,

suggest that the current hiatus in the FTA talks may prove an

extended one. We suspect that there are many within the RTG

who breathed a sigh of relief when the calling of elections

provided a neat, procedural excuse to suspend talks.

Questions over the viability of the FTA extend well beyond

the interruption caused by the elections. The FTA is closely

associated with Thaksin, and as opposition to the PM has

mounted, attacks on the FTA have become ever more strident.

Judging from media coverage, the FTA has now become intensely

unpopular. FTA supporters have either gone underground or

(sensing the political winds) switched sides. In his

currently embattled state, we wonder if Thaksin will be quick

to resume talks even if circumstances were to permit. The

main opposition Democrat Party, while being careful not to

condemn the FTA outright (it supports the FTA in principle

but criticizes certain provisions, e.g., intellectual

property, and the current government\’s handling of the

negotiations), may also find the FTA too radioactive to deal

with in the event the party wins office.

 

3. (C) The main reason for this negative atmosphere has

been the almost complete failure of the Thai Government to

explain to the public the need for, and benefits of, an FTA

with the US. The RTG has belatedly recognized the need for

public consultation, but this project will be doubly

difficult given that so many already have formed their views.

The pro-FTA forces have one great advantage, however: there

is a compelling argument that the FTA will be good for

Thailand, boosting employment and incomes. The FTA is a very

good message, and in the hands of an effective messenger

addressing an open-minded audience it is likely to eventually

gain the upper hand. But this eventuality is likely to take

time.

 

4. (C) In the meantime, what should we do? The sidelining

of the FTA should lower the temperature of what had become a

white hot issue. Our launch of FTA talks with other

countries in the region will serve to educate the Thai public

(and political parties) on the relationship between trade and

investment liberalization and maintaining Thailand\’s

competitiveness. At some point, the politics will calm down,

permitting a fresh look at the FTA.

 

5. (C) Aside from the FTA\’s close association with Thaksin,

the issue that did the greatest damage to the FTA\’s prospects

was enhanced IPR for medicines — particularly those for

HIV/AIDS — and its possible effect on prices. What we

needed to effectively counter the large numbers of

demonstrators (most of whom were HIV/AIDS sufferers) were

clear, direct answers to their concerns. The ability to make

a plain, unqualified statement that the FTA would not affect

Thailand\’s ability to access essential medicines to treat

HIV/AIDS at an affordable price would have been extremely

helpful. Such a statement by a high-level US official at the

outset of any future FTA talks will likely prove useful —

perhaps decisive — in jumpstarting such talks, setting them

in a very different and more favorable light. It would be

infinitely more helpful than having such a position as a

negotiated outcome at the conclusion of the FTA negotiations.

 

6. (C) I urge you not to give up on Thailand. The original

vision of the FTA, with its promise of gains for both of our

economies, remains valid. That\’s why we are convinced that

conditions eventually will permit negotiating comprehensive

trade and investment liberalization with Thailand. We look

forward to that opportunity.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:26 am

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