By The Nation
The total value of Thai exports fell below target last year amidst the ongoing US-China trade dispute, but still hit a record high at US$252.486 billion (Bt8.0 trillion).
Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of Ministry of Commerce’s Trade Policy and Strategy Office, said that Thai exports rose 6.7 per cent in 2018, lower than the target of 8 per cent. He blamed the continuing US-China trade war, which has disrupted the global trade and slowed down several countries’ imports, along with technology changes in several countries including electronic products.
In addition, Thai shipments to most major markets have seen a slowdown.
In December 2018, Thai exports contracted 1.71 per cent over the previous year to $19.38 billion. That followed the previous month’s 0.95 per cent shrinkage year on year, due mainly to drop in the shipment of electronic products.
Thai shipments of computers and components contracted 16.9 per cent and those of printed circuit boards shrank 4.5 per cent in December last year, due to the retaliatory tariff actions of the United States and China.
Thailand and other countries around the world have felt the trade war since the latter half of 2018. In the last month of the year, Thailand saw a 0.5 per cent contraction in its shipments to major markets, along with lower shipments to the European Union (EU).
Thai shipments to China shrank as much as 7.3 per cent in the month. However, Thai shipments to Asean and South Asia continued to expand.
Thai imports last December shrank 8.2 per cent to $18.316 billion. As a result, Thailand had a trade surplus of $1.065 billion in the month.
For the whole of last year, Thai imports increased 12.5 per cent to $249.232 billion and the country had a trade surplus of $3.255 billion.
Pimchanok said that December’s export contraction came from a 6.6 per cent decrease in Thai shipments of agricultural and agro-industry products and a 0.8 per cent decline in those of manufacturing goods. The trade war also shed $239.8 million off Thai exports during the month.
Among Thai shipments of agricultural and agro-industry products, rubber plunged by 32.3 per cent, tapioca by 22.8 per cent, frozen and processed shrimp by 13.2 per cent, rice by 5.5 per cent and other foods by 3.3 per cent.
Electronic products led the fall in Thai shipments to other countries, slipping by 13.5 per cent, while motorcycles and components dropped by 4.4 per cent and electrical appliances decreased by 1.7 per cent.
For the whole of last year, the trade dispute hit Thai exports by $382.1 million. Thai shipments declined by 41.6 per cent, or $421.5 million, as a result of direct impacts from the US tariff increase, while shipments of Thai products, as parts of the supply chain to China dropped by 5.8 per cent or $438.6 million. However, Thailand in sales of replacement products to the US, with an advance of 9.6 per cent or $478 million in Thai shipments to the US. “We hope that [US-China] trade negotiations will help improve Thai exports in the second quarter [of this year],” Pimchanok said. “As well, there are the matters of the baht appreciation, economic and financial fluctuations in emerging countries as a result of several countries’ shift in monetary policy, and the high export base in some product groups.”