Special Report: PM urged to exclude alcohol deal from FTA with EU

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The National Economic and Social Advisory Council (NESAC) has urged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to be cautious about the free trade area on alcoholic beverages with the European Union (EU), saying the deal could encourage new Thai drinkers. 

During a seminar on alcohol policies for the future of Thai youths, Jiraporn Limpananont of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council (NESAC) said the government’s move to seal the FTA deal with the EU must be considered carefully. The NESAC pointed out particularly to a free trade agreement on alcohol, saying if the deal was signed, it would encourage young drinkers.

The NESAC suggested the premier to abide by the Cabinet resolution earlier to exclude alcoholic beverages from future FTA discussions. At the same time, it also advised the government to push for restrictions for liquor shops to be located outside a 500-meter radius of an educational institution, impose more excise tax on liquor, and strictly prosecute shops that sell alcohol to children under 20.

According to Dr. Thaksaphon Thammarangsi, Center for Alcohol Studies Director, alcohol is one of the major causes of death of people aged 15-29. He said each year, around 250,000 become new drinkers. Besides, alcohol also leads to other problems such as brawls, drug abuse, and unsafe sex.

Dr. Thaksaphon explained that many young adults fall victims to advertisements and unethical marketing strategies, which include cheaper sale of alcoholic beverages and easy purchase.

He added that the World Health Organization had cited an academic report, saying many international free trade agreements have some influence over national public health policies. He suggested the government exclude the agreement on alcoholic beverages and tobacco from the FTA deal for a healthier society.

The opinions gathered from the seminar will be presented to the NESAC and later forwarded to the Cabinet for consideration before the government opens the FTA talk with the European Union.