Good afternoon. My name is Kumron from StopDrink Network and FTA Watch, Thailand. It is such a long day and also long journey of RCEP negotiation. I’m here to tell you my 2 main concerns.
RCEP aim is to reduce tariff among members. This lead to overall price reduction in many imported goods. According to law of demand, when good prices are cheaper, consumption will increase. Given we trade alcohol and tobacco products, their prices will be cheaper.
My concern is that when overall alcohol consumption increases, it can bring more alcohol-related accidents which lead to premature deaths. In long term, alcohol is health risk factor for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) which bring huge financial burden to government & family to cure those NCDs. And, of course, these diseases and deaths are preventable. In case of Thailand, there is about 25,000 alcohol-related deaths each year. Therefore, reducing tariff will bring down alcohol prices. And when alcohol prices get cheaper, RCEP countries and their people will have to bear all costs.
My second concern is RCEP Investment provision that contains ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement). It will make RCEP countries much more difficult to implement new policy measure to protecting health& well-being of their people.
For example, the case of Australian Government proposal on plain packaging for tobacco products. The Australian government has been sued on violating trademark. Another example is that Thailand has had difficulty in pushing “Pictorial Health Labeling” on alcohol products. This case is claimed to be a technical barrier to trade.
I concern that the government of Thailand and other RCEP members will face similar difficulty in proposing their health prevention mandates, like alcohol and tobacco control law. Moreover, I concern that any health exception provision in RCEP, maybe not that practical for government to protect their people.
Those 2 main concerns I have mentioned are not only negative impacts in Thailand, these impacts and pattern can happen elsewhere in other RCEP countries. To help controlling those preventable impacts from alcohol and tobacco, my propose is to exclude alcohol and tobacco products in RCEP negotiation.