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Thai exports will suffer from Trump decision

Greeley Pulitzer

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Thai exports will suffer from Trump decision | The Thaiger
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US President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the US will suspend 1.3 billion dollars worth of duty-free trade for certain items from Thailand, claiming that Thailand has not taken steps to protect labor rights.

In a letter to US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, Trump said he had suspended duty-free treatment because Thailand had not taken steps to “afford workers in Thailand internationally recognized worker rights.”

The US Trade Representative’s office said the move amounted to a suspension of 1.3 billion dollars in trade preferences under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. At present, the GSP program covers around 4.5 billion dollars worth of Thai exports.

The suspension, which will take effect in six months, affects about a third of Thai products included in the program, including all of Thailand’s seafood exports to the US.

While the list of products subject to GSP suspension has not been made available the absence of GSP preference is likely to dampen the already grim prospects of Thai exports this year.

Thai exports in 2019 are likely to see flat growth or even a contraction for the first time in four years, due to the gloomy global economy, the prolonged trade war between the US and China and the strong Thai baht, according to several economic think tanks.

Thai exports in September fell from the previous month, and declined by 1.4 percent compared to the same period last year. While the figure is better than the 4-percent drop from the previous month, it is worse than market expectations.

The US suspension does not come as a total surprise. Earlier this year, Thailand narrowly avoided being labeled a currency manipulator on the US Department of Treasury’s watchlist because Thailand did not meet the conditions set by Washington.

Thailand’s current account surplus accounted for over 7% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2018, against the limit set by the US Treasury of 2%. Moreover, the amount of foreign currency purchases did not increase from the previous year. Thailand’s trade surplus with the US was 19 billion dollars, approaching the limit of 20 billion.

While the US action toward countries labeled as currency manipulators isn’t clearly defined, Washington can unilaterally end the GSP benefits to take action against high trade deficits with its trading partners.

The US announcement will likely further impact Thai fishery business after an issue in the European Union (EU).

Even though the EU announced in Januarythe lifting of a yellow card for Thailand in recognition of its progress in tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, Thailand’s fishery exports to the EU have not recovered to pre-IUU levels.

Thailand is the second biggest beneficiary of the US’s GSP, after India, which was the largest GSP beneficiary with 5.7 billion dollars in imports to the US in 2017. Washington decided to terminate India’s designation as a beneficiary developing nation in May this year.

A wide range of Thai export items currently receive GSP benefits. The biggest beneficiaries are electrical appliances and electronics like air conditioning and electronic components, and washing machines, followed by food and agriculture products and machinery.

The prospects for Thai exports are not promising. Last year, the USTR’s office accepted a petition from the National Pork Producers Council challenging Thailand’s eligibility for the GSP program.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) also filed a petition to Washington to review of Thailand’s GSP eligibility, based on labor issues.

Thailand is the United States’ 20th largest goods trading partner, and two-way trade totaled USD44.5 billion in 2018. The U.S. goods trade deficit with Thailand was USD19.3 billion in 2018.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

1.9 trillion baht stimulus aims to relieve Covid-19 impacts on Thai business

Anukul

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1.9 trillion baht stimulus aims to relieve Covid-19 impacts on Thai business | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: posttoday.com

Today, on the weekly meeting with the Thai Cabinet, it was concluded and approved that the third phase of the economic stimulus will commence as of today. The stimulus is valued at 1.9 trillion baht and is aimed to relieve some of the impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak.

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha revealed that the third phase of economic stimulus measures consists of three emergency decrees…

  • The first decree will transfer 80 billion baht to 100 billion baht to the central budget to use as stimulus funds.
  • The second will permit the Bank of Thailand to use up 900 billion baht for moves to boost the economy.
  • The third decree allows the Finance Ministry to borrow up to 1 trillion baht, of which 600 billion baht will be used for cash handouts and public health and 400 billion baht will be spent on economic recovery measures (in addition, there will be another 80 billion baht to 100 billion baht available after rearranging the budgets of government authorities).

Meanwhile, the Bank of Thailand will allocate 500 billion baht in soft loans at 2% interest rates to aid the economy, especially to small and medium enterprises, with credit lines of up to 500 million baht. In addition, the BOT will instruct commercial banks and government financial institutions to allow SMEs with loans not exceeding 100 million baht to postpone principal debt and interest payment for 6 months.

Government spokesperson Narumon Pinyosinwat says “the Cabinet has also approved the Finance Ministry’s draft regulations to disregard import duty for materials that can be used to cure, diagnose or prevent the Covid-19 virus.”

The waiver has been in effect since March 26 and will be valid until September 30.

SOURCE: The Nation / The Nation

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai banks report they can handle the impacts of the virus

Anukul

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Thai banks report they can handle the impacts of the virus | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bloomberg.com

As the Covid-19 coronavirus continues to spread in Thailand, authorities have temporarily shut off shopping malls, entertainment and sporting venues while allowing food stalls and restaurants to open, but only for take-out and delivery services. The measures have led to social disruption, unemployment, leave without pay and salary cuts.

However, a senior official at the Bank of Thailand reports, “Thailand’s banking sector is strong enough to defend against a potential upsurge in bad debt as well as debt restructuring cases stemming from the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak and official measures to contain the spread.”

Senior director for the economic and policy department Don Nakornthab says that banks have a sufficient capital buffer in the event of higher past-due payments and debt restructuring. Unlike the 1997 Tom Yum Kung (Asian financial crisis in Thailand) crisis, the banking system’s financial position is much more solid now.”

“At the end of 2019, the banking system’s capital funds totalled to 2.85 trillion baht, with a capital adequacy ratio of 19.6% and loan-loss provision of 701.2 billion baht, according to central bank data.”

“The non-performing loan coverage ratio was stable at 149.9% at the end of last year, and the liquidity coverage ratio remained high at 187.5%.”

“The banking system delivered a 30.8% rise in net profit to 270.9 billion baht in 2019.”

Siam Commercial Bank ‘s co-president Apiphan Charoenanusorn says that more than 100,000 clients with over 150 billion baht worth of total loans have requested financial aid to ease their burden after the bank launched the scheme in February.

Last week The central bank has set guidelines for the minimum assistance that financial institutions must offer to debtors to ease their financial burden amid the pandemic, which is effective from April 1st. All lenders, comprising commercial banks, specialised financial institutions, and non-bank and leasing companies, are required to comply with the guidelines covering 6 types of loan product…

  • Credit cards
  • Personal and car title loans
  • Auto and motorcycle loans
  • Machinery leasing
  • mortgages
  • SME – Nanofinance and Microfinance loans

Krungthai Bank data shows that the bank has already provided financial aid to 1,500 customers with combined loans of 30 billion baht, while another 70,000 clients with total loans of 250 billion baht are in the process.

The strongest demand for debt restructuring is seen in the bank’s mortgage and personal loans.

At the state-owned Government Savings Bank, President and chief executive, Chatchai Payuhanaveechai says that the GSB has offered a three-month grace period on principal and interest for all debtors who still service debt and miss payment for less than three months as of the end of March.

“The scheme, will run until June 30 and is automatically applied to qualified debtors without any registration requirement, adding that those who do not want to participate in the scheme can honor their debt as usual.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai government screws sex workers over 5,000 baht stimulus

Greeley Pulitzer

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Thai government screws sex workers over 5,000 baht stimulus | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Pattaya One

Thousands of Thai sex workers, estimated to be around 300,000, mostly out of work due to the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis, will receive no labour protection from the government. Empower Foundation, an organisation for the rights and opportunities for sex workers across Thailand, has sent a letter to the government pleading for help.

“Many are mothers and main family providers and carers. Due to Covid-19 the government has ordered closures of entertainment places which means that over 100,000 sex worker across Thailand are out of a job. In emergencies women are often the ones who do the work of caring for others. Yet this work is not recognised, nor compensated or supported.”

“For example, even though entertainment places are reported to earn around 6.4 billion dollars per year and sex workers create 4-10% of the GDP. Sex workers are criminalized and left out of labour protection and social security. The closure order affects sex workers who now have no income at all. Sex workers are ready to help society, but also still must pay their rent, live and care for their family.”

The organisation is yet to receive a response from the government, and it’s estimated the number of sex workers without a job across the country has now reached 300,000.

Mai Janta, a community representative of sex workers in Chiang Mai working at Empower Foundation, told reporters that they were the first to be affected when the government declared all entertainment venues closed.

“When the massage parlours, bathing venues, bars and karaoke closed we all agreed with and supported the government’s measures. Yet our kind of work means that we have zero chance of any income during this time. Also the government has shown no interest in helping at all. Now we can only follow the situation and check in on the women we know of, which is our 3,091 members across Chiang Mai.

“This government has focused on arresting and enforcing, never supporting. The labour law has never protected these women even though we contribute greatly to the economy. There are some women who are under the social security scheme; those working for larger businesses who have proper working hours such as beer girls, karaoke girls and such. But freelancers and women working in bars are often left out in the cold,” according to Chiang Mai City News.

“The government’s 5000 baht compensation, which is still not available and may not be for months, only applies to a few women, as most are migrant workers or tribal people with no Thai ID.”

“These are the most vulnerable of all. They have nowhere to go and no resources at all. What we want is the nearly 500 million baht the government seized a few years ago from the human trafficking owners of Victoria Secret and Natalie massage parlors.”

SOURCES: Chiang Rai Times | Chiang Mai Citynews

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