Stronger baht may curb export outlook
Exporters look set to cut their forecast for the country's export growth because of the baht's appreciation and emerging protectionist trade measures.
Wisit Limluecha, vice-president of the Thai National Shippers' Council, which represents a group of Thai exporters, said the council is monitoring the baht's movement and the impact of nascent trade measures in foreign countries.
"Based on the growing number of negative factors, the council may need to revise its earlier export growth forecast of 5.5% this year," Mr Wisit said.
He said the baht has gained 2.4% against the greenback this year and hovers near a 3½-year high, the second-best performer in Asia after the Malaysian ringgit.
Mr Wisit said exporters see the baht continuing to appreciate in the coming months in the wake of the US's government shutdown and widening trade deficit.
The council earlier estimated that every single baht rise [against the dollar] would lead to a loss of 230 billion baht worth of export income. Such a scenario will also send a negative wave through the country's supply chains, Mr Wisit said.
The Commerce Ministry reported on Monday that the country's 2017 shipments totalled US$237 billion (7.5 trillion baht), up 9.9% year-on-year, the highest in six years, propelled by higher purchases from key trading partners, especially the US, EU, Asean and China.
By contrast, exports in 2016 rose only 0.5% year-on-year.
Imports last year jumped 14.7% to $223 billion, giving the country a trade surplus of $13.9 billion.
The ministry expects export growth of 5-7% this year, fetching the country $248-253 billion, or average growth of 6% to $250 billion.
Farm sector exports are expected to grow by 1-3%, while those from the industrial sector will grow 3.5%, based on crude oil prices of $55-65 per barrel, an exchange rate of 32-34 baht against the US dollar and GDP growth of 4%.
But the ministry said it needs to work harder this year to maintain growth, now that farm products are likely to be hurt more by the stronger baht than industrial goods.
Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said that related agencies, including the Trade Negotiations Department, the International Trade Promotion Department and the Foreign Trade Department, have been assigned to monitor the baht's movement and other trade issues that may negatively affect Thai exports.
They were also tasked with monitoring US trade measures, particularly after the US government approved tariffs on imported washing machines and solar cells as a way to protect American manufacturers, Mr Sontirat said.