Commerce Ministry braces for Trump action

Commerce Ministry braces for Trump action

The Commerce Ministry will hold a meeting with exporters to assess the impacts of a new US policy and prepare relief measures.

Thailand is among 16 countries that US President Donald Trump singled out in an order calling for an investigation into the US trade imbalance.

Mr Trump also promised on Friday to crack down on "foreign importers that cheat", signing two executive orders that he said would lead to a historic reversal of his country's trade deficit.

Thai Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said on Monday the country had no policy to intervene or keep the local currency weak even as the US was normalising interest rates, resulting in a weaker dollar.

The country also promotes two-way investments while attracting inflows to the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), she said.

Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office, said the ministry would wait to see what measures the US would implement.

"In the meantime, we'll review our weak points such as the intellectual property situation. We'll also look into the US trade privileges that we currently enjoy."

According to the ministry's Washington office, Thai exports to the US rose 1.82% to $24.4 billion in 2016, representing 11.4% of all Thai exports.

In January this year, two-way trade rose 9.5% to $3.2 billion, with the US having a deficit of $1.5 billion, up 6.5% year-on-year.

During the same month, Thailand shipped products worth $2.4 billion, up 8.5%, led by electronic equipment, car tyres, TV sets and radio receivers. The US exported $835 million worth of goods to Thailand, up 12.5%.

Nopporn Thepsithar, president of the Thai National Shippers' Council (TNSC), said the major concerns were labour issues in the fishing industry and intellectual property, which the country had yet to meet international standards.

"Product quality is another concern. Thai operators could face barriers if they fail to upgrade themselves, especially small and medium-sized ones.

"In any case, Thailand will need to be able to readily explain itself if anything comes up, instead of asking for time. We should turn the crisis into an opportunity and plans bilateral talks with the US and other countries to expand our markets," he said.

He added the strong baht, now at 34 against the greenback, further complicated the issue as it would affect Thai shipments.   

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