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Thailand’s Board of Trade Sees Bleak Future for Private Sector Exports

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BANGKOK – Thailand’s first quarter’s weak economic performance has prompted the private sector to take a dimmer export view, predicting the country’s overall shipments may grow just 2.1% this year.

Sanan Angubolkul, vice-chairman of the Board of Trade of Thailand, said exports are under siege by a raft of external risk factors, while the value per unit of export items is also decreasing.

Mr Sanan took part on Tuesday in a joint meeting of the International Trade Promotion Department and the top 10 exporting groups to evaluate prospects for the second quarter.

“Thailand’s export competitiveness is likely to go from bad to worse after the free trade agreement between the EU and Vietnam comes into force this year and the US cuts its products included in the Generalized System of Preferences,” he said.

“Right now, the business models are changing fast. The Thai private sector needs to adjust and focus more on overseas investments.”

The Commerce Ministry reported recently customs-cleared exports fell 4.9% year-on-year in March to US$21.4 billion after a 5.9% rise in February to $21.6 billion.

The uptick in February was largely because of a one-time shipment of arms for military drills and the transport of oil-related products and gold.

Without oil-related products, gold and weaponry, exports would have contracted 4.9% in February from the same month last year.

The ministry attributed the March contraction to a slowdown in global trade and economic growth.

The ongoing trade dispute between the US and China has had direct and indirect impacts, undermining trading partners’ economies — especially those closely related to Chinese supply chains such as Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan.

For the first quarter of 2019, exports registered a contraction of 1.6% year-on-year to $61.98 billion. Imports in the period fell 1.2% year-on-year, totaling $59.98 billion.

Banjongjitt Angsusingh, director-general of the International Trade Promotion Department, said the first-quarter contraction could lead the department to cut its 8% full-year growth target.

“To achieve 8% growth as aimed, we should fetch an average of $23 billion a month,” she said. “But in April the figures are unlikely to meet that rate. The department has to adjust the export growth target to be more in line with the real situation.”

The ministry is scheduled to hold a joint meeting with Thai Trade Centers worldwide on May 31 to evaluate the current export situation during the food and beverage trade show, ThaiFEX 2019.

Ms Banjongjitt said her department set up a new working group to tackle trade obstacles and boost export orders over the next six months.

“Right now, the department’s focus of promotion will be new markets, particularly in each province of China and India,” she said.

By Phusadee Arunmas
The Bangkok Post