Source: London South East
BANGKOK (Alliance News) – The latest round of free trade talks between Thailand and the European Union ended Friday, with opponents threatening to campaign for the EU’s Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked.
The two days of talks in Chiang Mai, 680 kilometres north of Bangkok, were dogged by protests from civil society groups that the deal could lead to higher prices for pharmaceuticals and lower tariffs on foreign alcohol and cigarettes.
FTA Watch, an association of concerned Thai civil society groups, presented a petition to the EU trade team, led by Joao Aguiar Machado, demanding exemptions for certain goods.
“If the EU fails to address our concerns we will petition the Nobel Peace Prize committee to revoke the prize they gave the EU last year,” said Kingkorn Nalintarakul, a coordinator of the group.
The EU had not responded to the demands by Friday.
FTA Watch has said the deal would make many medecines more expensive for Thai patients, especially the poor.
Currently several categories of pharmaceuticals are sold in generic form in Thailand.
The pact would allow the companies that developed the original drugs to impose patent protections on the Thai market, forcing people to buy the more expensive, foreign-brand medecines.
This is of particular concern for Thailand’s 700,000 HIV patients, many of whom take generic retroviral treatment, rather than the much more expensive brand-name originals.
Machado met with the FTA Watch and other NGOs on Thursday.
“The NGOs were a little bit cross with our responses, and threatened to ask the Nobel comission to withdraw our peace prize,” said one EU negotiator, who asked to remain anonymous.
“But we feel that this FTA will not effect our credibility as an institution.”
The Thai and EU teams were to meet again in December in Brussels for a third round of talks.
Thailand has said it hopes to complete negotiations by 2014, when a set of current tax benefits for exports to the EU are due to expire.