Exports climb for a second month in April

Exports climb for a second month in April

Shipments surge to China and Asean

Thai exports expanded for a second straight month in April, boosted by the global economic recovery and higher prices for farm products and oil.

The Commerce Ministry yesterday said customs-cleared outbound shipments rose by 8.5% year-on-year in April to US$16.9 billion after a 9.2% jump in March.

"Shipments fared well in almost all markets," said Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of the ministry's trade policy and strategy office. "The markets that saw export expansion represented up to 85.4% of the total, indicating that exports, which are a vital engine of the economy, are in an upward trend."

Ms Pimchanok said shipments to China surged 20.2% in April, while those to five Asean countries (Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and Brunei) rose 17.2%.

Shipments to South Asia rose by 10.5%, followed by Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, up 7.3%, the US (3.5%) and Japan (3.3%).

Only shipments to the EU and the Middle East shrank, down 1.7% and 7.1%, respectively.

Ms Pimchanok said exports of agricultural and agribusiness products rose 11.9% year-on-year in April, fetching $2.83 billion, boosted by higher shipments of rubber (+41%), sugar (+47%) rice (+22.7%), frozen shrimp (+6.6%) and seafood (+2.9%).

Exports of industrial products rose by 7.9% to $13.2 billion, led by chemicals (+30%), finished oil (+22.3%), electronics (+3%), and integrated circuits (+2.4%).

In April, imports rose 13.4% year-on-year to $16.9 billion, yielding a trade surplus of $56.8 million.

For the first four months of 2017, Thailand's exports rose 5.7% to $73.3 billion, the highest rate in the past six years. Imports rose accordingly by 14.5% to $69.2 billion, yielding a trade surplus of $4.11 billion for the period.

The Commerce Ministry aims for export growth of 5% this year after a rise of 0.5% in 2016.

But Ms Pimchanok said the government still needs to closely monitor risks which may arise from the United States' protectionist international trade policies, volatile foreign exchange and oil prices.

She said the Commerce Ministry is also setting up a working panel to consider preventive measures in case the United States comes up with new trade barriers in light of March 31 executive orders, whereby US President Donald Trump called for an omnibus report on significant trade deficits.

Thailand was named as one of 16 countries to be probed due to its trade imbalance with the US.

Under one order, the US Commerce Department was given 90 days to produce a report on the factors behind the trade deficit, while the second sought to raise the collection of tariffs on imports.

The Thai Commerce Ministry recently submitted a report to the US Office of the Federal Register saying Thailand's trade surplus with the US was caused by normal trade and economic practices. The report said the trade deficit value is not substantial, making up only 1.5% of the US's total trade deficit.

US shipments to Thailand have not expanded much, as the US does not have a bilateral free-trade agreement with Thailand, while foreign direct investment from the US has decelerated, the report said.

Thai products, including midstream products that add value to high-tech products in the US and agricultural raw materials imported by the US, also play a vital role in US economic development.

"Preventive measures are needed as many trade associations representing the shrimp, pork and pharmaceutical industries have set their sights on attacking Thailand," said Ms Pimchanok. "Thailand also needs to be prepared to handle other issues which will be raised in discussions at an international trade policy committee meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on May 26."

Sompop Manarungsan, president of the Panyapiwat Institute of Management, said Thailand's higher exports in April are likely to stem largely from China, noting that its imports rose 30% and imports grew 18% last month.

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