As a dynamic participant in global trade, Thailand has experienced its share of trade-related disputes. Resolving such issues in a timely manner helps to preserve trade relationships and encourages compliance with international agreements.
However, the length of time that a case takes to be resolved depends on its complexity. Even uncomplicated cases can take more than a year to resolve in the Thai courts.
Tariffs and Quotas
Disputes related to tariffs (taxes on imports) and quotas (limits on the quantity of imports) can create tensions between trading partners. When these disputes escalate, they can hurt economic growth and harm local industries.
Thailand is a strong supporter of the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanisms. These mechanisms ensure that trade conflicts are resolved in a transparent and rules-based manner.
In the US, opposition to trade agreements may arise from groups concerned about labor and environmental standards in participating countries. These groups are often joined by anti-globalization activists who question whether trade agreements enhance the social welfare of participants.
The Philippines complained to the WTO that Thailand’s custom valuation and tax regimes negatively impacted imported cigarettes. After a series of consultations, Thailand issued a Notification of an Appeal  under Articles 16.4 and 17 of the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (DSU) to appeal against some of the panel’s findings. The Philippines subsequently filed an appeal with the Appellate Body.
A country’s domestic laws and legal system will govern a trade dispute. However, the courts may also apply international law and international trade customs if the parties so choose.
When Thailand fought the European Union over canned tuna in 2002, it was able to use evidence that EC anti-dumping duties had significantly decreased its export performance vis-à-vis the EC. This evidence included a decline in sales and profits of canned tuna exporters and the loss of EC market share to Thai competitors.
The prevailing party in a trade dispute can expect to receive lawyers’ fees, though these costs are often not fully recoverable as the court has discretion over the amount awarded. Nevertheless, litigation can take months or even years. Therefore, parties contemplating a trade dispute should seek the advice of experienced local counsel. In addition, it is important to carefully assess any information a claimant has on the opposing party before submitting such evidence to the court.
Intellectual Property Rights
As a dynamic participant in international trade, Thailand encounters its share of trading-related disputes. Disagreements over tariffs and quotas, dumping, and intellectual property rights can create tensions that need to be addressed while upholding commitments to fair trade practices and international agreements.
Intellectual property protection in Thailand includes patents (inventions that offer new approaches to solving existing problems), trademarks, and copyrights. A patent grants the owner exclusive use of a new process, machine, formulation, or other invention for 20 years. A trademark grants the owner a specific commercial name for 10 years, and a copyright protects artistic works such as musical compositions, dramatic plays, literary work, cinematographic works, and computer software.
Thai customs can search, inspect and seize infringing goods coming into or out of the country either proactively or as a result of a complaint from a rights holder. In addition, civil litigation and criminal prosecution can also be available in the event of infringement.
In the case of serious SPS problems suffered by Thai exports, the Commerce Ministry and the Institute of Industrial Standards take up the matter with importing countries on a case-by-case basis. The importing country must then agree to tackle the problem and allow imports to resume.
Nevertheless, a number of importing countries use SPS regulations as a tool to protect their domestic industry, particularly in the food sector. For example, some countries apply chemical residue standards that are higher than international levels and have resulted in the detention or destruction of large lots of frozen chicken from Thailand.
In addition, the Organic Law to Counter Corruption criminalizes corrupt practices of public officials and their families and the country’s procurement regulations prohibit collusion among bidders. Moreover, private companies can compete with state enterprises on equal terms in most sectors. Although private property can be expropriated for government purposes, this process is rare and provides adequate compensation to owners.