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Thailand on US Treasury’s “watchlist” for suspected currency manipulation

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thailand is now on the United States Treasury’s “monitoring list” for suspected currency manipulation, unfair policies to gain an advantage in international trade.

Vietnam and Switzerland were both labeled currency manipulators in the US Treasury’s recent report “Macroeconomic and Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States.” Along with Thailand, the Treasury also added Taiwan and India to their watchlist which includes China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Singapore and Malaysia.

US Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a press release that the department will take a “strong step today to safeguard economic growth and opportunity for American workers and businesses.”

“Treasury will follow up on its findings with respect to Vietnam and Switzerland to work toward eliminating practices that create unfair advantages for foreign competitors.”

To be labelled a currency manipulator, a country must meet all 3 criteria under the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015:

  1. A more than $20 billion USD bilateral trade surplus with the US
  2. Foreign currency intervention exceeding 2% of GDP
  3. A global currency account surplus exceeding 2% of GDP

Thailand met 2 of the 3 criteria, putting the country on the US Treasury’s watchlist. According to the report, Thailand has a material account surplus and a significant bilateral trade surplus.

Strike 1…

Thailand’s run current account surpluses since the 1998 Asian financial crisis. Between 1998 and 2019, the surpluses averaged at 4% of the GDP. In 2019, the account surplus reached 7%. With the collapse of tourism receipts, brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, the current account surplus moderated to 6% of GDP.

Strike 2…

This year, Thailand’s bilateral goods trade surplus with the US continued to grow, reaching $22 billion USD and exceeding the limit set by the US Treasury.

“Thailand should allow the baht to appreciate to help reduce its large and durable external surpluses. The authorities should also take steps to reduce Thailand’s external imbalances through policies that encourage private investment, reduce precautionary saving, and promote greater openness in domestically oriented sectors.”

To read the US Treasury’s report, click HERE.

SOURCES: Reuters | US Treasury

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Avatar

    chris

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 11:15 am

    deflation has begun. competitive devaluation of currencies is the game. last time this happened, the world’s central banks worked together by swapping currencies. not gonna happen this time. the rebound of the dollar is going to be monumental

  2. Avatar

    Alte Ledertasche

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 11:23 am

    The U.S. should shut the fxxx up. Time to boycott American goods and American brands, as I do personally since long long time already

    • Avatar

      Ted

      Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 12:07 pm

      Totally agree! Stop playing the “chief of the world” and start looking at yourself, with a critical eye

    • Avatar

      Preesy Chepuce

      Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 2:22 pm

      How can you? Most people are completely oblivious to the supply chain for their goods and brands. Many people would like to boycott Chinese goods, but it’s similarly difficult because of the complexity of global trade. How do you define the nationality of a good or brand?!

      I guess if companies are state-owned, like in China, it’s pretty easy, but other companies have more complex ownership models. Car industry is a case in point. Are you going to refuse to get on a Boeing flight? Or object to Raytheon electronics being inside an Airbus flight? Get real!

      • Avatar

        Jean-Pierre R. Compain

        Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 8:15 pm

        Preesy Chepuce, I think it is a bit like the vegetarian concept.
        It goes from eating some fish but no mammal meat, eggs, dairy products, to nothing at all coming/produced by animals.
        Here, I think most of us thinking a boycott are just going for the obvious, such as a label “made in xxx”, or a flagship (ex. Coca-Cola for USA).
        Getting real, as you say, is simply equivalent to making it simple, without going to deep. Otherwise, and your point is valid, it becomes a complex mosaic, and it is a Gordian knot …

      • Avatar

        Alte Ledertasche

        Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 8:58 pm

        I for example – if I have to pay the flights – make sure that I book a flight with Airbus and NOT with a Boeing Aircraft.

        I simply not purchase any typical American brand including food, clothes and cars regardless of where they are produced. Same as I would never buy a car from a production plant in the U.S. regardless of the brand

        If I am in doubt of a product I check the labeling and/or try to get information who is financially involved in it.

        You are right I can not always be certain but I can do my small part.

    • Avatar

      The Farang

      Friday, December 18, 2020 at 7:46 pm

      I agree the USA shouldn’t be imposing on other countries, but your boycott is tough. You might consider stop using the internet and most devices as just about all that technology comes from America. You may have knock-off from other places, but all this exists because of innovation in the USA

  3. Avatar

    Issan John

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    I hate to do so, but I have to agree with both.

    Why does having a current account surplus and a trade surplus mean you’re “manipulating” your currency?

    On the other hand, what the US wants purely to reduce its own trade deficit, would undoubtedly require “currency manipulaion”. Pure hypocrisy, but only to be expected.

    ….. and why, when Thais have the debts they do individually, should the Thai government try to persuade them to “reduce precautionary saving”???

    • Avatar

      Mike

      Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 7:38 pm

      You have minimal understanding of the subject.

  4. Avatar

    Michael D

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    I am a US citizen and find this to be another reach by my government into the affairs of others. It’s distressing. If I wanted US policies, I would have stayed there. I love my new home and enjoy my life here. I wish the US would mind their own business before telling others how to operate. Maybe things will change under the new administration. One can only hope

    • Avatar

      Michael McPherson

      Friday, December 18, 2020 at 11:28 am

      Well my brother American, are you so naive that you do not see that trade imbalance with any country is injurious to the USA? The United States has been the punching bag for he world in the trade arena because we adhere to open and free trade with any nation that has ‘MFNS”, while having modest tarriffs on some protected industries. I keeps Americans working.

      Doing business with countries in the EU and China on a strictly import basis, would and is suicidal because it deprives the US of needed jobs. Jobs that support the middle class. These whining Germans and French see no downside to protecting homegrown industries with huge tarrifs, yet cry and moan about any push back as some evil United States plot against them.

      Thank God for the Trump administration and its policy of free, open and FAIR trading practice.

      Be an American first and man up. It’s obvious that your apologist attitude is the one that got the US into this mess over the last 30 years.

  5. Avatar

    Ken

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    Should allow the baht to appreciate? Really? The baht is already hugely overvalued. Its economy threatened by falling tourism so the answer is make its goods and services more expensive to the rest of the world? These people have no idea. Realistically the baht needs a 20% depreciation. There are reasons why US consumers want to buy thai goods disproportionately to Thai consumers buying US goods and services. It is called purchasing power parity. They need to get a grip.

  6. Avatar

    George Wallings

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    Be careful what you wish for, if Thailand let’s it’s currency appreciate without intervention your currency won’t buy you anything…..there goes your income unless your making your money in baht.

    I would love for the USA to have its way, 25 baht to the dollar would’ be great for me. And I do love those import duties, trade restrictions and taxes, it would be awesome to see the price of imported goods go up another 40%, perfect for my business.

    Cheers

  7. Avatar

    crispy

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 10:10 pm

    The Bank of Thailand is accused of currency manipulation.
    The measure is how much it spends on currency intervention; with a max of 2% of GDP.
    The motive would be to plump up the value of exports and encourage home production for home consumption.
    Four years ago a dollar would buy you 35 baht. Today it buys you 30.

    Reasons for recent appreciation might be the vaccine promising a return of touristS. Tourism accounts for20% of GDP and employs large numbers of lower income groups. With Trump gone, investors expect a pickup in US-China trade.

    Probably putting Thailand on the US watch list will only weaken the attempt of the BoT to weaken its currency.

    Given all this support for the baht, not the least being excellent fundamentals in terms of its balance of payments, more buying of the baht can be expected. Not so good for those dependant on an income from outside; good for those with assets in the country.

    Anyone hazard a guess for USDTHB 2Jan2021?

    • Avatar

      Patrick

      Saturday, December 19, 2020 at 7:00 am

      I personally think the baht is overvalued and has been for many years. It’s killing tourism with many now going to Vietnam. Be interesting to see other thoughts on the value of the baht

      • Avatar

        Patrick Kelly

        Monday, December 21, 2020 at 2:06 am

        Apologists abound on these boards. The regional master ….China, is teaching them well. Currency manipulation is just one of a myriad of issues .

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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