Exporters alerted to row toll
Thai exporters are being urged to shift their focus to alternative markets, especially in Asia, which represents about 60% of Thailand's exports, as the trade row between the US and China is unlikely to end in the near future.
Speaking at a seminar jointly held by the Trade Negotiations Department and Thai National Shippers' Council (TNSC), Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the department, said the escalating trade dispute will definitely take a toll on international trade, including Thai export prospects. Thai exporters should prepare for uncertainty from this spat, she said.
"The US-China trade talks are scheduled to resume on Jan 30-31," said Mrs Auramon. "If the negotiations are aborted, President Trump may add import tariffs worth US$200 billion [6.31 trillion baht] on Chinese goods as pledged. This would result in slower world growth."
"Thai exporters should prepare for the shift in international trade, which will affect the global supply chain."
In late 2018, both countries decided to enforce a 90-day truce to hold negotiations and to withhold all tariff action until talks ended.
She said authorities are keeping a close watch on the US's investigation into imports of autos and automotive parts.
The US Commerce Department initiated a Section 232 national security investigation on imports of automobiles and auto parts on May 23.
Similar to an earlier investigation of steel and aluminium imports, which led to a steep hike of 25% tariffs on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminium imports, the probe will determine whether imports of automobiles, including sport-utility vehicles, vans and light trucks, and automotive parts threaten national security.
The US Department of Commerce is expected to finish the investigation and make recommendations to Mr Trump next month.
"Despite the US trade row, the Commerce Ministry is still maintaining export growth target at 8% this year," said Mrs Auramon. "In its best bid to achieve that goal, the ministry is set to have trade missions expand exports in secondary cities in China and India. The top priority for trade negotiations while Thailand chairs Asean meetings is to push for the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership this year."
Visit Limlurcha, vice-chairman of TNSC, said the trade war is expected to bring the global trade war to Asia this year, and suggests exporters focus more on the Asian market and capitalise on the strong baht to employ automation.