Thailand has requested a number of trade privileges from the US aimed at helping Thai exporters compete in both US and global markets, the Commerce Ministry revealed Monday.
The privileges were requested at last week's Thailand-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meeting in Washington, DC, said Nuntawan Sakuntanaga, the Commerce Ministry permanent secretary.
Among them was an exemption from tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on US imports of certain steel and aluminium products, according to Ms Nuntawan.
On March 8, 2018, US President Donald Trump issued two proclamations imposing tariffs on imports of certain steel and aluminium products, effective March 23.
The decision was made in response to a US Department of Commerce report on the impact of imported steel and aluminium on US national security. Specifically, the Trump administration imposed a 25% tariff on certain imported steel products and a 10% tariff on certain imported aluminium products.
Nuntawan Sakuntanaga, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Commerce, led the multi-ministry Thai team in the Thailand-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meeting. (Photo provided)
Ms Nuntawan said Thailand cited a number of reasons why Thailand could be excluded from the tariffs. Among them was that Thailand holds a very small steel and aluminium market share in the US, she said.
Another reason was that Thailand has been implementing measures aimed at better tackling attempts to falsely claims that steel from other countries was produced in Thailand, she said.
On farm products, Thailand requested that the US speed up its hygiene checks on Thai pomelos, which is required before Thailand can export the fruit to the US, she said.
The US side said the checks should be completed soon and that Thailand will be able to begin exporting the pomelos to the US some time later this year if there are no objections to this taking place, she said.
The Thai negotiators also discussed with their US counterparts about the possibility of certain Thai state agencies such as the Department of Rice and the Department of Agriculture receiving permission from the US to inspect and certify organic agricultural products on its behalf, Ms Nuntawan said.
At the same meeting, the Thai negotiators were told that Thailand wasn't on a list of nations facing a review of their customs status privileges granted under the US Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme, a system of trade preferences, she said.
The list was announced by the Office of the US Trade Representative on April 12, she said.
"The main factor saving Thailand from a GSP review was the country demonstrating an improvement in protecting intellectual property and labour rights," said Ms Nuntawan. Three countries facing a GSP review this year are India, Indonesia and Kazakhstan, she said.
More good news was that Thailand wasn't among six countries on the US Department of the Treasury's watch list of nations using the foreign exchange market to intervene and distort trade flows.
The six nations being watched by the US over this matter were China, Japan, Korea, India, Germany and Switzerland, she said.
During the same meeting, the US side called on Thailand to adopt the Codex Alimentarius (food code) standard on safe levels of ractopamine, a feed additive, banned in most countries, to promote leanness in animals raised for their meat, she said.
The drug is completely banned for use in animals for slaughter in Thailand and 160 other countries. Its use by US farmers has led to a Thai ban on the import of US pork.
Last week's US call for Thailand to adopt the Codex Alimentarius food standards is actually a request that Thailand legalise ractopamine, and thus resume imports of US pork. In that short term, that is unlikely.
The US Trade Representative has pressed Thailand to lift its ban on ractopamine and open the pork market to US farmers.
Last September, Auramon Supthaweethum, the deputy head of Thailand's Department of Trade Negotiations, said a discussion of the import ban was “still being coordinated” with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.
Thailand asked for more time to review research results on the impact of the Codex standard on consumers and assess the possible health risks this chemical may pose to people even at recommended levels.