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Thais could gain from US tariffs

Trade agency spots chance to up trans-Pacific exports

Trade agency spots chance to up trans-Pacific exports.

Thailand is expected to gain more than it loses if the US slaps tariffs of up to 25% on an additional list of Chinese imports worth US$300 billion, according to a study by the Commerce Ministry's planning unit.

Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office, said a fresh round of US tariff hikes on Chinese goods would cover mostly daily-use products, food, utensils, garments, shoes and ornaments, which are not a part of the supply chain of Chinese exports to the US.

"If the US raises import tariffs as threatened, we expect Thailand will benefit from increased exports to the US worth $200 million-$1 billion," she said. "However, US consumers themselves will be hard hit."

Ms Pimchanok said Thailand will have more opportunity to export 725 items to the US, including food and seasonings such as herbs, sunflower oil, coconut oil, peanuts, pine nuts, sugar cane, sugar, fruit juice, ginger, green tea, garment/textiles, shoes, sports components, ornaments (especially pearls and watches), ceramics and glass.

The Trump administration this month hiked existing tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%, prompting Beijing to retaliate with its own levies on US imports, as talks to end the 10-month trade war between the world's two largest economies stalled. President Donald Trump recently threatened to slap tariffs of up to 25% on an additional list of Chinese imports worth $300 billion.

Ms Pimchanok said global trade is volatile and measures to boost Thai exports are needed in short order.

She said the Commerce Ministry plans to meet with more than 20 industrial sectors on May 29 to discuss export strategies to cope with the deepening trade row between the US and China and adjust export plans. Results of the meeting will be submitted to the International Economic Policy Committee chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on June 11.

Thailand's shipments to the US market rose continuously between 2016 and 2018, fetching $24.5 billion in 2016, $26.5 billion in 2017 and $26.6 billion in 2018. For the first three months of this year, exports to the US rose 32% year-on-year from the same quarter of last year to $8.78 billion.

The top five export products were machines, electric appliances, rubber, tractors and pearls.

Earlier, the Commerce Ministry reported its study that Thailand lost an estimated $780 million worth of export revenue from the trade spat between the US and China in the 12 months ended on March 31.

Shipments to the US fell by $316.5 million during the period, mainly from the toll on solar cells, washing machines, steel products and aluminium.

Cars and parts, housing and office products, computer components and circuits, electric appliances, and machines shipped to China fell by an estimated $1.10 billion.

Lower shipments were offset by higher exports to the US of cars and parts, garments, jewellery and ornaments, computer parts and electrical circuits, electric appliances, and processed food, considered substitutes for Chinese products. These shipments totalled $637 million in the period.

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