Student Video: Thailand and EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations in Chiang Mai
Protestors expressed opposition to a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between Thailand and the European Union in the Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai from September 18th-20th 2013. Proponents of the FTA believe liberalizing trade will bolster both economies. But Thailand’s poor, say Thai activists, are at risk of losing their livelihood and access to affordable healthcare if the proposed FTA is passed.
Strict international property right (IPR) laws allow international companies to own strains of seeds. As owners of the seed patents corporations can impose prices. They can also sue farmers if evidence of unauthorized seed strains are found in their fields. The effect might be a decrease in seed biodiversity and increased production cost for farmers.
For farmers from Thailand’s poorest region of the Northeast, rice varieties are an important part of the Northeastern, or Isaan, culture, so if traditional seeds can’t be used, these farmers lose an important part of their way of life. Lack of biodiversity may jeopardize Thailand’s food security as the monoculture agriculture that may result from the FTA makes yields more vulnerable to unpredictable weather conditions that will only worsen in the midst of global climate change.
The poor are particularly worried about how the FTA may affect access to medicine. International Property Right (IPR) laws also have strong effects on the price of medicine as new trade rules may prevent Thailand from producing generic drugs. Many people living with HIV/AIDs were present at the protest. More than 440,000 people in Thailand are living with HIV/AIDs and risk losing access to antiretroviral medicine.
The trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights provision (TRIPS+) increases the patent laws laid out by the World Health Organization, preventing Thailand from preventing generic versions of drugs. Many patients were present at the protest because the passing of TRIPS+ would mean that they could no longer afford their medicine. 440,000 people in Thailand are living with HIV and risk losing access to their antiretroviral medicine.
NGOs delivered a letter of concern to EU negotiators at the Le Meridian Hotel during the protest. Olarn Chaipravat, Thailand’s chief negotiator, and Antonio Berengeur, head of the EU delegation’s trade and economic section, assured protestors that their concerns will be considered.
Negotiations are still in early rounds and activists are still hopeful that their rights of the poor will be respected in the agreement.Zoe Swartz, Tulane University
Maggie Adams, Indiana Univiersity