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Thailand Free Trade Sept 24

Free Trade
September 24, 2007
PM urged to rethink pact with Japan
Thailand's Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont should think carefully before effecting the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA) on November 1 without legislative body approval because such an action could violate the constitution, according to the FTA Watch group, even as Thai restaurant owners in the Japanese capital are urging early implementation of the trade pact to ease a critical shortage of Thai chefs.
Consumer Protection Foundation manager Saree Ongsomwang, a core member of the group, told a press conference on Sunday that the FTA Watch group opposed the government's decision to exchange a diplomatic note with Japan on October 2 to put JTEPA into effect without deliberation by the National Legislative Assembly.
The government's move is a breach of Article 190 Paragraph 2 of the constitution that requires prior approval from NLA should be sought for contracts on trade, investment or the national budget.
Ms. Saree said the premier might be following a Council of State ruling that a JTEPA exchange note need not be deliberated by the NLA, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has warned the cabinet that the diplomatic note might violate Article 190 of the charter.
The prime minister must review the matter urgently and present it for NLA consideration by NLA, or the FTA-Watch Group is prepared to petition the Constitutional Court.
Bantoon Setsiroj, another core group member, said the premier had recently announced he was ready to resign if the Constitutional Court rules against the government's decision.
"His announcement does not help solve any problem. Mr. Bantoon said, referring to the premier's statement. "Worse still, it may be seen as a pressure put on the court."
Postponement the implementation of JTEPA will not adversely affect the Thai business sector. In contrast, Mr. Bantoon said, it would help restore confidence that Thailand operates democratically and transparently.
Meanwhile, in Tokyo, some members of the Thai-Japan business community are saying that early implementation of JTEPA will help ease a shortage of Thai chefs and cut the tariff on raw materials
If JEPTA is put into affect on November it will help ease the shortage of Thai chefs and cut the import tariff on raw materials considerably, according to an owner of Thai restaurants in Japan.

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