The US is downgrading its participation in two Asia-Pacific summits in Bangkok next week, a move sure to disappoint Asian partners worried by China’s expanding influence.
US President Donald Trump is expected to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Chile in November, but the most senior official from his administration, when Thailand hosts the annual East Asian Summit (EAS) and US-ASEAN Summit, will be Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, according to a White House statement.
Ross will lead the US delegation to an Indo-Pacific Business Forum comprising government officials and executives on the sidelines of the EAS. Trump has also named national security adviser Robert O’Brien as his special envoy to the summits.
David Stilwell, the State Department’s assistant secretary for East Asia and the Pacific, will attend, but the US delegation will be outranked by regional players like Japan, India and China.
Despite declaring Indo-Pacific “the single most consequential region for America’s future” in a report earlier this year, the Trump administration has steadily shrunk US presence at EAS and ASEAN gatherings.
Although Trump attended the US-ASEAN summit in Manila in 2017, he’s never attended a full EAS meeting. Vice President Mike Pence represented the US at the meetings in Singapore last year. In contrast, Barack Obama attended every US-ASEAN and East Asia summit from 2011, except for 2013 when he canceled due to a US government shutdown.
Asian diplomats say the lack of top U.S. representation in Bangkok is a significant, if unsurprising disappointment, in a region increasingly worried about China’s growing influence.
Diplomats and analysts say Trump’s absence in Bangkok will raise questions about US commitment to the region, especially after his withdrawal from the 11 nation Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in 2017, shortly after taking office. Last year, Trump, currently embroiled in an impeachment inquiry, sent his VP in his place to APEC as well as the ASEAN and the East Asia summits.
SOURCE: Thai PBS World
The baht keeps surging – and other predictions for the Thai economy in 2020
The last time the Thai baht’s value against theUSD touched 29 baht/US dollar was back in 2013. But the currency appreciation situation was quite different then. Today it’s floating around 30 baht in its 22nd year as a floating international currency.
How will all that affect the Thai economy in 2020?
Now the strong baht is a result of the Kingdom’s huge current account surplus, caused mainly by the export-weighted economy. The surplus, valued around US$26.4 billion, stems from lower import values when compared to the value of exports, the rising inflows of tourism revenue and near-record foreign reserves of about $222 billion.
The impressive foreign reserves make Thailand stand out as a safe haven for investor capital, both real investment and speculation. At the same time, the US dollar is in retreat, rattled by the soft global economy, the US Federal Reserve’s policy of monetary easing and the engineered trade tiff between the world’s two largest economies.
Thailand’s economic growth was 2.4% in Q3, up from Q2’s 2.3% but down from Q1’s 2.8% growth. And regionally, the Thai baht is the top-performing currency in Asia, gaining nearly 8% against the USD so far in 2019. All that is happening whilst Thailand’s local economy remains, well, sluggish.
The Bank of Thailand has rolled out a range of tepid measures to blunt the baht’s strengthening value… cutting the policy interest rate, cutting the short-term bond supply, and lowering the cap on the outstanding balance of non-resident accounts by a third
But all that work still leaves the strong baht a challenge for Thai exporters and the tourist industry. Despite the rise in costs for foreign tourists, some more than others, the country’s tourist intake will still end up higher in 2019 than last year.
The outlook is that the baht’s value is likely to keep surging next year, but analysts say the rise will be less dynamic than in the past few years.
Kasikornbank Bank projects the baht to reach 28.70 against the dollar in 2020, based on assumptions that exports will start to rebound and the number of inbound tourists will be greater than the locals heading overseas for holidays.
The big ‘unknown’ is the ongoing, and unpredictable, US-China trade war. The results of this could have a big effect on some world currencies, depending on how the two economies patch together a workable plan. Or perhaps they can’t and it will drag on, increasing uncertainly in a patchy world economy – neither China or the US will gain anything from that situation.
The two other economic ticking bombs are the US Presidential election in November 2020 and the on-again, off-again Brexit farrago which continues to bedevil attempts to keep the British economy out of recession.
With export shipments accounting for 70% of Thailand’s GDP, all eyes will be on the Thai Government’s attempts to stimulate exports and the new RCEP trade bloc, which Thailand is signed up to – the largest trading bloc in the world which should take effect from Q2 and Q3, 2020. The RCEP will involve countries covering about half of the world’s population and 39% of the world’s GDP. RCEP is all the ASEAN nations plus, China, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
Thais warned on Hong Kong travel
Hong Kong’s Thai Consular Office has issued a warning to travellers and Thais living there, of violent demonstrations that may be dangerous and disrupt public transport.
The office tells Thai people to preparefor inconvenience, avoid protest areas and be very cautious.
“Don’t photograph protesters or police, and refrain from doing anything that might be provocative,” the office warns
Thais in Hong Kong can get updates on the website of the Hong Kong Polic,e and can check public transport information and flights on these websites:
They can also call emergency lines at (+852) 6821-1545 or (+852) 6821-1546, or the call centre of Department of Consular Service at (+66) 25728442.
Bangkok bombing suspects make their first appearance in court
Three suspects are now in custody after being arraigned in the Bangkok Criminal Court yesterday. They had 11 charges read relating to the explosions around Bangkok in early August when the city was hosting an ASEAN Summit.
The three men – 27 year old Widan Maha, 22 year old Lu-ai Sae-ngae, and 27 year old Muhammad Ilham Sa-i – were indicted by prosecutors three days ago. All three are residents of Narathiwat in southern Thailand.
They face a total of eleven charges, including collusion in terrorism, organised crime, illegal assembly, attempted murder, illegal possession of explosives, carrying explosives plus related offences.
They were taken from Bangkok Remand Prison and arraigned in the Criminal Court on Thursday. They continue to deny all charges. The three were remanded in custody. Their next appearance in court will be on December 16.
The general thrust of the police prosecution case is that the attackers carried out the attacks in retribution for deaths of insurgents in the seep south, and that the bombings were politically motivated. They say the timing of the attacks co-incided with an ASEAN meeting in Bangkok for foreign ministers to embarrass the government.
The deputy director-general of the Department of Criminal Litigation says police investigators had submitted their case report on the bombings to prosecutors last August.
Attorney-General Wongsakul Kittipromwong had decided to indict three suspects on all counts recommended by police.
The three defendants, along with another 18 other accomplices, are accused of planning and carrying out bombings at various locations in Bangkok and Nonthaburi at the start of August this year. Read The Thaiger report at the time HERE.
They are accused of planting two bombs in front of the Royal Thai Police HQ on Rama I Road on the evening of August 1, but the bombs were discovered and safely defused, according to the police report.
They’re also accused of a bomb blast at the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence in Nonthaburi, and planted four bombs at the government complex in Chaeng Wattana.
They’ve also been charged with similar attacks in Hua Mak, Bang Kapi, Thung Song Hong and Chaeng Watthana districts of Bangkok, and Pak Kret district of Nonthaburi between August 2 – 10.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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