Shippers maintain export view
Despite an unexpected rise in exports in July, Thai shippers are maintaining their forecast for outbound shipments to contract by 1% this year.
Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong, chairwoman of the Thai National Shippers' Council (TNSC), said exports still face multiple risks: the global economic slowdown exacerbated by the escalating trade war, the Brexit impasse, international political conflicts, baht appreciation, uncertain monetary policies by powerful players and natural disasters.
"Gold seems to be one of a handful of positive drivers for the country's exports, as importers are rushing to accumulate gold as a safe-haven asset," Ms Ghanyapad said.
"We also expect importers to speed up importing products that will be subject to the new round of higher import tariffs by the US and China, especially for goods under the supply chain such as electrical appliances and computer parts. That will be good for Thai shipments."
She said certain Thai shipments such as farm products, food and lifestyle items report positive growth, while lower oil prices affected by the simmering trade war and weak demand from the global slowdown are likely to lower operating and production costs for local operators and manufacturers.
The Commerce Ministry reported on Aug 21 that customs-cleared outbound shipments unexpectedly rose for the first time in five months in July, up 4.3% from the same month a year earlier to US$21.2 billion after contracting by 2.2% year-on-year in June, 5.8% in May, 2.6% in April and 4.9% in March.
Exports increased to most major trading partners, including the US, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, especially for fresh, frozen and processed fruits and automobiles.
Shipments of agricultural and agro-industrial products returned to growth, rising 1.4% to $3.45 billion after falling 9% in June. Top performers were fresh, frozen and processed fruits (+26.1%), rubber (+9.6%), cassava products (+8.7%) and fresh, frozen and processed shrimp (+7.3%).
But exports of some key products declined, including rice (-27.2%), sugar (-25.4%) and canned tuna (-13.6%).
In the first seven months of 2019, exports of agricultural and agro-industrial products contracted 1.7%.
Industrial product exports remained positive for a second straight month in July, rising 6% after a 0.04% uptick in June. Top performers in July were gold (+406.9%), cosmetics, soaps/skincare products (+17%) and air conditioners (+4.2%).
Shipments of some industrial items decreased, including oil-related products (-14.2%), computers and parts (-5.9%) and automobiles and parts (-2.9%).
In the first seven months of 2019, industrial product exports contracted 1.4%.
Imports, meanwhile, rose 1.7% year-on-year in July to $21.09 billion, yielding a trade surplus of $110 million.
For the first seven months, exports fell by 1.9% from the same period last year to $144 billion, generating a trade surplus of $4.053 billion for the period.
Ms Ghanyapad said the Commerce Ministry and related agencies should tap India more, particularly for products like rubber and rubber products, food, gems and jewellery, electrical appliances, repair spray, and chemicals.
The shippers' council also urged exporters to make the best use of the Thai-India Free Trade Area agreement and speed up talks on a Thai-Sri Lanka free trade pact.