Thailand Sees Opportunities in Trump’s Proposed Protectionist Measures 1

Thailand enjoys a trade surplus with the US, but it is not worried

Thailand (THD) has a trade surplus with the US. This means that it exports more goods to the US than it imports. The US is also the biggest export destination for Thai goods. According to Bank of Thailand data, the country exported goods and services worth $24.5 billion to the US in 2016, followed by China ($23.8 billion) and the 28-member European Union ($22.1 billion).

Exports to the US formed 11.4% of Thailand’s total exports by value for 2016.

Despite this concentration, Thailand is not worried about being negatively impacted by potential new protectionist maneuvers by the new US administration.

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Trade surplus “not big”

Pimchanok Vonkhorporn, head of Thailand’s trade policy and strategy office, said that even though the country enjoys a trade surplus with the US, it is “not big.” For 2016, the trade surplus stood at $12.4 billion.

If we look at President Donald Trump’s views on countries such as China and Mexico, his primary gripe has been the large trade surpluses they run with the US. Due to the relatively low trade surplus of Thailand, local officials say they are not overly worried about the Trump administration taking a negative view on trade with the country.

Thailand sees an opportunity

Instead of being concerned about move toward protectionist policies being voiced by the Trump administration, Thailand sees an opportunity for itself. This is because of more pessimistic views on heavyweights China and Mexico, whose products Thailand hopes to substitute.

Reuters reported Vonkhorporn as saying “there is a chance for Thailand to substitute exports from China and Mexico if US protectionist measures are imposed against them.” However, she did concede that if broad-based restrictions are effected across countries, then its exports on items such as hard drives, jewelry, and computer parts, among others, would indeed be negatively impacted.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s Commerce Minister, Apiradi Tantraporn, was reported by the Bangkok Post saying that she expects exports of canned and processed seafood and fruit, chilled and frozen prawns, and rubber products, among others to increase. She argued that these products were popular with the US middle class – a category the US President intends to support.

From this decidedly more positive take on trade protectionism, let’s move on to the next nation on the list.

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