Commerce and agriculture ministries told to lift exports
Riding US-China trade war seen as key
The Commerce and the Agriculture and Cooperatives ministries have been told to join forces to spur exports over the remaining months of the year and pinpoint potential new buyers to ride the US-China trade war storm.
In a meeting of overseas commercial affairs officials, directors of Thai Trade Centres from 58 offices worldwide and agricultural affairs officials, Deputy Prime Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said on Wednesday the two ministries must team up under a "securing market before production" strategy and roll out plans to boost market access for Thai products.
The meeting was the first of its kind to discuss how to stimulate exports over the rest of the year amid the US-Chinese trade spat and concerns about its direct and indirect impacts. The government however saw positive signs following an unexpected rise in exports for the first time in five months in July and wants to keep up the momentum.
The Commerce Ministry reported on Aug 21 that customs-cleared outbound shipments rose 4.3% year-on-year in July to US$21.2 billion after falling by 2.2% year-on-year in June, 5.8% in May, 2.6% in April and 4.9% in March.
Mr Jurin, also the commerce minister, stressed the need for commercial affairs officials at overseas offices to diversify from their traditional roles as trade negotiators or compilers of information to function more as "honorary salesmen".
The officials should work in cooperation with the private sector to help tackle export obstacles and drive exports while they should also have a sound knowledge of Thai agricultural products, he said.
Agricultural attaches on the other hand are expected to help resolve trade barriers and initiate talks with authorities in the countries where they are based to relax regulations while Thai producers are working to adjust themselves to new rules, he said.
"The most important thing is to increase exports. [Both ministries] have to be proactive and have clear goals and action plans. They should propose action plans to the ministry in the next three to six months and identify potential markets for exports," he told the gathering at Bitec.
Kwanapa Phivnil, director of the Thai Trade Centre in Los Angeles, discussed the situation in major markets -- the US, the European Union, Japan and China.
She said the continued market expansion in the US is positive for Thai exports, especially jasmine rice, processed seafood products, fruits and vegetables, cassava products, and animation and digital content.
As for China, Ms Kwanapa said potential buyers were lined up for Thai rice and fruits, especially durian, lamyai and mangosteen.
Coloured rice varieties, lifestyle products, animation and digital contents have potential in the Japanese market, she added.
In the EU, demand for para rubber is high and talks should be pursued with rubber industry parties to address obstacles to exports. Efforts are also under way to speed up free-trade agreement talks with the EU and the UK, she said.
Ms Kwanapa said several US importers have turned to Thailand out of concern that the trade row will be prolonged and they will have to look for other suppliers.
However, if China retaliates by increasing taxes on automobiles and automobile parts this would be of concern, she said. China imports 170,000 vehicles from the US per year and if its car imports slide, Thailand will be affected as a player in the industry supply chain.
Alongkorn Ponlaboot, adviser to the commerce minister, told the meeting cooperation is key in driving exports with the Commerce Ministry expected to identify potential markets.