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Economy

Thai exports will suffer from Trump labour rights decision

Jack Burton

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The Thaiger

The Thai export sector will suffer another blow after the US President Donald Trump announced on Friday the suspension of 1.3 billion dollars worth of duty-free trade for certain Thai goods, claiming Thailand has not taken steps to protect the labor rights.

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

The US Trade Representative (USTR)’s’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 covers around 4.5 billion dollars of Thai exports.

The suspension, which takes effect in six months, will affect about a third of Thailand’s products including all of Thailand’s seafood exports to the US.

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

Thai outbound shipments in 2019 are likely to see a 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. Although the figure is better than a 4-percent drop from the previous month, it is worse than the market expectations.

The suspension on GSP 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 does not meet all the conditions set by Washington.

Thailand’s current account surplus accounted for over 7% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2018, versus 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 USD19 billion, approaching the limit of USD20 billion.

While the US action toward countries labeled currency manipulator is not clearly defined, Washington can unilaterally end GSP benefits to take action against high trade deficits with its trading partners.

The announcement is likely further impact Thai fishery business after an issue in the European Union.

Even though the EU in January announced the 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 so far.

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

At present a wide range of Thai export items receive GSP benefits, the biggest being electrical appliances and electronics such as air conditioning and electronic components and washing machines, food and agriculture and machinery.

The prospects for GSP 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 review Thailand’s eligibility, based on labor issue.

According to the USTR, Thailand is the United States’ 20th largest goods trading partner, and two-way trade between them totaled 44.5 billion dollars in 2018. The U.S. goods trade deficit with Thailand was 19.3 billion dollars in 2018.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Politics

Deputy PM declares Thammanat Prompow controversy finished

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Thailand's Deputy Agriculture Minister Prompao talks to reporters after a government cabinet meeting in Bangkok (via Reuters)

Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam says that the debate is over regarding Thammanat Prompow, the controversial Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives and influential Palang Pracharath Party ‘fixer’.

The Constitutional court has already ruled that he is qualified to hold office under Thai law and will keep his position, though a huge backlash followed the ruling, and the public wondered how his 1993 heroin trafficking conviction in Australia. Then using the name ‘Manat Bophlom’, he was convicted of conspiring to import a traffic able amount of heroin, serving 4 years of a 6 year sentence.

According to Wikipedia, Thammanat parliamentary declaration of assets in August 2019 listed “2 wives, 7 children, and a net worth of about $42 million, including a Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Tesla, and Mercedes-Benz along with 12 Hermès and 13 Chanel handbags, luxury watches, and Thai Buddha amulets.”

Thai law says that no one who has been convicted of an indictable offence is eligible to hold public office, but the new decision seems to imply that anything that happens outside of Thailand’s border does not qualify. A legal expert, the Deputy PM says that this ruling is not in opposition to the rules about convicts holding office.

He says that a conviction by Australia’s New South Wales Court is not legally binding in Thailand and therefore does not disqualify Thammanat. Only a jail sentence from a Thai court would be considered a roadblock to a candidate being confirmed to hold government office.

Thai immigration law, however, determines that convictions in home countries will bar people from entry into Thailand. The decision also calls into question the legitimacy of the Australian/Thailand extradition treaty which saw Thammanat deported back to Thailand after serving 4 years of his 6 year sentence.

But the Council of State had declared that someone in jail for 2 years cannot hold office within 5 years of release, regardless of whether the jailing was in Thailand or in another country. The 4 year jail term Thammanat served in Australia ended in 1997 so the 5-year grace period has already passed.

The Deputy PM says that this ruling by the Constitutional Court does set a new precedent for future issues of possible MP candidates that may have been in trouble with the law outside of Thailand. But he stopped short of supporting Thammanat’s prior conduct unconditionally, declining to comment.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has been under pressure to investigate Thammanat and whether his conduct has been ethical. The Deputy PM said that the Constitutional Court ruling does not whitewash any other issues Thammanat may face.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

BMA admits Covid virus spreading fast in Bangkok, speeds up testing and jabs

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Stock photo via Flickr

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration says it is speeding up mass Covid-19 testing and inoculations in communities hit strongly by the virus, after admitting the virus is spreading fast in Thailand’s capital.

The city clerk says the administration, along with the Public Health Ministry and other agencies, are speeding up the collection of nasal swabs for Covid-19 tests, with a plan to test 3,000 people in high-risk groups per day. Those people deemed to be at an increased risk of the virus have been clustered by districts, with testing units in each of the 6 districts…

Laksi district, 70 Pansa Min Buri park in Min Buri district, Huai Khwang stadium in Huai Khwang district, under the Rama III expressway in Yannawa district, a public park under Rama VIII bridge in Bang Phlad district and The Mall Bangkae shopping centre in Bang Kae district.

The virus has been found in densely populated, low-income areas such as the Klong Toey community in Klong Toey district, Bon Kai community in Pathumwan district and Ban Khing community and The Mall Bangkae in Bang Kae district. In an effort to help those residents stay at home to prevent the possible spreading of the coronavirus, community-level organisations are teaming up to provide food, water, and supplements to those in the areas.

But stay at home orders are a problem for many as starvation is more frightening than the virus and 90% of residents in the slum communities still need to leave for work each day to keep food on the table. The daily average income for those in the slums is around 120 to 150 baht. The CCSA yesterday declared that is is focusing on containing major Covid clusters in 3 key Bangkok communities – the Klong Toey ‘slums’, Bon Kai in Pathumwan and Ban Khing in the Bang Kae district, on the west side of the Chao Phraya.

Today’s nationwide Covid update includes compiling the regional totals from yesterday, with a total of 27 new Covid-related deaths and 2,044 new Covid-19 infections over the past 24 hours. The numbers continue a statistically consistent rise in the number of Covid infections over the past 2 weeks.

Meanwhile, talking about Phuket’s plans to open in July, the Tourism and Sports Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, said yesterday that the number of new cases on the island must reach zero before the government can contemplate the ‘Sandbox’ plan for no-quarantine travel.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Friday Covid UPDATE: 27 more deaths, 2,044 new infections

Thaiger

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The Friday report, compiling the regional totals from Thursday, indicates that has been 27 new Covid-related deaths and 2,044 new Covid-19 infections in the past 24 hours. The numbers continue a statistically consistent rise in the number of Covid infections over the past 2 weeks.

The CCSA yesterday declared that is is focusing on containing major Covid clusters in 3 key Bangkok communities – the Klong Toey ‘slums’, Bon Kai in Pathumwan and Ban Khing in the Bang Kae district, on the west side of the Chao Phraya.

Meanwhile, talking about Phuket’s plans to open in July, the Tourism and Sports Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, said yesterday that the number of new cases on the island must reach zero before the government can contemplate the ‘Sandbox’ plan for no-quarantine travel.

He also disclosed that the government are planning to set a levy of 300 baht to be collected from foreign tourists starting from January 2020 “to set up a tourism fund for emergency use”. Speaking to Bangkok Post…

“Once the spread is under control, the government will resume travel bubble discussions with Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos and Malaysia.”

 

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