Title: The Making of Political Space in Public Policy on Bilateral Free Trade Agreements: The Case of FTA Watch
Author: Theerada Suphaphong
Keywords: FTA WATCH / SOCIAL MOVEMENT / FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
The research question of this paper is: How is FTA WATCH able to make political space in gaining access to pressure and influence the policy process on bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)? Using qualitative methodology and interpretations through social movement theory, this paper uses the term "the making of political space" as a conceptual framework which refers to the process which FTA WATCH creates and expands their influence into the realm of policy governance. It looks at the ways in which FTA WATCH operates in order to gain access over resources, to making the movement visible in the society, and to seek authority to influence changes.
The research reveals that the emergence and the operation of FTA WATCH are embedded in the context of the proliferation of FTAs which develop countries use in engaging in political and economic relations with developing countries. The government of Thailand has been eager to enter FTA negotiations with major economic power since 2003 onwards. However, the FTA policy governance was carried on in intransparent and accelerated manner without thorough impact assessments and substantive public consultation. The immediate results of FTAs caused vulnerabilities in the farming sector.
The members of FTA WATCH who are academics, activists from non-governmental organizations and grassroots network have formed a coalition to monitor and make changes in the policy governance. They can make political space under oppressive circumstances through the use of their accumulated knowledge on the issues related to the modalities in FTAs to create the discourse which counter argue with the government's discourse. They use a combination of strategies and tactics through institutional and non-institutional channels to influence changes in FTA policy governance.
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