Planet News Views

Friday, January 20, 2006

Thailand, United States Work Toward Free Trade Agreement

Tariffs would be eliminated, intellectual property protected in trade pact, but Thailand's AIDS and HIV positive patients fear they could lose access to affordable medicines

By Scott McLean

Trade talks between the United States and Thailand are pushing forward in 2006 with a goal of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that would eliminate tariffs and create tens of thousands of jobs, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Barbara Weisel said in a statement.

The past week's trade discussions in Chiang Mai, Thailand were not without opposition. Thousands of Thais protested the trade negotiations, according to The Bangkok Post, and many were AIDS/HIV+ patients, who fear that AIDS medicines will not be available to them if the FTA is approved.

Thailand is already considered a major trade ally in Asia. In 2004 the U.S. exports to Thailand totaled $6.4 billion and imports from the asian trading partner were $17.6 billion.

Thailand receives the highest percentage of its agricultural imports from the United States. Last summer trade officials from both countries had a meeting in Montana and agriculture was one of the main topics.

U.S. trade officials said that an FTA with Thailand would expand sales of agricultural products, namely pork and beef, which will benefit U.S. farmers and ranchers. In July last year Thai trade representatives were taken on tours of Montana farms and businesses.


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