Thais hope to get off
Trump's trade hit list as Tillerson heads for Bangkok
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[August 07, 2017]
By Orathai Sriring and Satawasin Staporncharnchai
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai officials voiced
hope ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of
escaping U.S. pressure over the size of their trade surplus with the
United States as their figures point to a jump in imports, but U.S. data
shows little change.
A spokeswoman for the State Department's East Asia Bureau said Tillerson,
who will be the most senior U.S. official to visit Thailand since a 2014
coup, will discuss a broad range of issues including security, trade and
Tillerson visits Bangkok on Tuesday after attending regional meetings in
Manila at the weekend.
A narrowing trade gap would also reduce the risk of Thailand being
labeled by Washington as a currency manipulator - the last thing
Thailand wants as it struggles with a baht currency that exporters find
According to Thai customs-cleared figures, imports rose 35 percent from
a year earlier in the first six months of 2017 while exports to the
United States rose 7 percent.
That meant Thailand's trade surplus over the six months narrowed from $6
billion to $4.8 billion.
"We hope higher imports from the U.S. will help ease pressure on this
issue... and the trend should continue," Pimchanok Vonkhorporn, head of
the commerce ministry's trade policy and strategy office, told Reuters
However, U.S. figures calculated using a different methodology showed
little change in the gap during the first five months year on year. The
U.S. estimate of a Thai trade surplus of $18.9 billion put it in 11th
place on U.S. President Donald Trump's list of countries to be
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A container is loaded onto a cargo ship at a port in Bangkok March
30, 2015. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo
The growth in Thailand's imports from the United States this year was led by
planes and parts, circuit boards, chemicals, metal and machinery and parts, the
Thai data showed.
It shows "we haven't conducted any trade protectionist policy", said Thanavath
Phonvichai, professor at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
After being put on the U.S. list, Thailand defended itself with a 22-page
justification that covered everything from its support for the United States in
the Korean War to investment by U.S. companies in Thailand.
About 40 percent of Thai exports to the United States come from U.S. firms,
officials say. Thailand is the world's No. 2 maker of hard drives, with U.S.
firm Seagate Technology and Western Digital among big players.
Although the Trump administration has indicated no specific action against
Thailand, Trump has ordered a study into the causes of U.S. trade deficits.
(Additional reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon in BANGKOK; and David Brunnstrom
in WASHINGTON; Editing by Matthew Tostevin, Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Nick Macfie)
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