Exporters fret over trade effect of recent conflict
Exporters and the Commerce Ministry are concerned the US-Iran conflict may stymie global trade if the standoff worsens.
Ghanyapad Tantipipatpong, chairwoman of the Thai National Shippers' Council (TNSC), said a group of exporters is worried tensions in the Middle East will escalate and affect Thailand's export opportunities to the region, which is an important market.
Products related to oil such as refined oil, plastics and petrochemical products are likely to benefit from higher oil prices, she said.
Ms Ghanyapad gave no details about export products that may be hit hard.
The Commerce Ministry reported Thailand fetched US$7.64 billion worth of exports to the Middle East in the first 11 months of last year, down 2.91% year-on-year.
Key exports were automobiles and parts, gems and jewellery, canned and processed seafood, air conditioners and parts, rubber, wood and wooden products, machinery and parts, rice, refrigerators and freezers, chemicals, computer and parts, and plastic pellets.
For the same period, Thailand exported only $137 million worth of goods to Iran, down 43.4% year-on-year.
Key export products included rubber, canned fruit, wood and wooden products, rubber products, frozen vegetables, storage batteries, rice, fishing nets, beverages and motorcycles.
Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the escalated US-Iran tensions may cause panic in the short term, particularly regarding oil prices.
However, he said global oil prices are likely to drop once the US increases its shale oil and gas production.
Mr Kalin said the most important thing for Thailand is to ensure safety and security in the country, noting the tourism sector will benefit if it does so.
"We expect the US-Iran tensions will have less of an impact on exports," he said.
"Key factors that affect the overall export sector are competitiveness and the stronger baht."
Somdet Susomboon, the International Trade Promotion Department's director-general, said Thai commercial counsellors in the Middle East have been told to keep a close watch on the situation, as the heightened tensions may affect Thailand's trade not only with Iran but also the Middle East.
The conflict may prompt people in the region to demand more food, he said.
In a separate development, Mr Somdet said the department is scheduled to hold the first overseas trade mission of the year, led by Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit to India during Jan 16-20.