Meeting on strong baht next week

Ministry of Commerce officials will meet with private sector representatives next week to discuss ways to ease the impact of the baht's continual appreciation on the forex market, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said on Wednesday.

The minister said the prime minister had assigned his ministry to oversee the export sector and small- and medium-enterprises (SMEs) affected by the continuing strengthening of the Thai currency.

The meeting next week would involve ministry officials and representatives from the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) and the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC), he said.

The meeting woud hear reports on pressing problems in the private sector caused by the currency's strong foreign exchange rate so that his ministry could draft appropriate assistance plans.

Mr Boonsong said the Bank of Thailand (BoT) should keep a close watch on the baht's movement. If the currency was too strong the exchange rate  could affect the overall outlook for the country’s exports.

He had directed his commerce attaches overseas to study the market situation in countries where they were stationed to help the ministry to come up with a suitable export promotion plan.

The private sector on Tuesday stepped up its pressure on the BoT to ease the baht's strength, saying the central bank should look at the possibility of an interest rate cut and tax measures to cope with foreign capital inflow.

The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB), which comprises the FTI, the TCC and the Thai Bankers' Association, met on Monday to discuss the impact of the strong baht, which was quoted today at 29.77 baht against the US dollar.

JSCCIB chairman Payungsak Chartsuthipol said strong foreign capital inflows had strengthened the baht and short-term fluctuations had adversely affected exporters.

Mr Payungsak, also the FTI chairman, said the committee will meet with the Commerce Ministry this week to discuss ways to maintain the competitiveness of exports.

Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said on Tuesday that he had expressed concern about the strengthening baht in speeches at various meetings because as finance minister he was legally required to oversee the economy and take responsibility for any negative consequence.

Mr Kittiratt, deputy prime minister for economic matters, said the baht's continuing appreciation would affect exports.

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