Thailand’s Lead Negotiator in Proposed U.S.-Thai Free Trade Agreement Resigns
Thailand's lead negotiator in a proposed U.S.-Thai Free Trade Agreement, Nitya Pibulsonggram, on Thursday resigned because of criticism from the media and opposition to the trade agreement from HIV/AIDS advocates, Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced, AP/Forbes reports (AP/ Forbes, 1/19). Thai and U.S. officials met last week in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for the sixth round of talks on the FTA proposal, which aims to foster trade between the two countries. Some HIV/AIDS advocates oppose a proposal by the U.S. to extend patent protection for drugs developed by U.S. companies to 25 years because they fear it could limit drug access for HIV-positive Thai people (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/12). Pibulsonggram, who has led the talks for 18 months, "insisted that he wanted to resign as he has been severely criticized, especially by nongovernmental organizations, and it has demoralized him," Shinawatra said, adding that the resignation will not impede negotiations (AP/Forbes, 1/19). According to Reuters, it is unclear if Pibulsonggram -- whose effigy last week was burned by protesters during the negotiations -- quit or was fired. Pibulsonggram will serve as an advisor to Vice Commerce Minister Uttama Savanayana, who will be Thailand's top negotiator until Pibulsonggram's successor is appointed. Both the U.S. and Thailand have reported progress in negotiations but said an agreement is not imminent (Reuters, 1/18). The next set of talks is expected to begin in two months, Shinawatra said (AP/Forbes, 1/19).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.