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Kingdom must get serious about solving labour problems, shippers council says

The Thai National Shippers Council (TNSC) said yesterday that the United States' downgrade of Thailand in its "Trafficking in Persons" report and the European Union's plan to downgrade its relationship with this country would not affect exports this year, but could erode competitiveness next year if the country does not urgently solve its labour problems.

"Exports could be affected next year from the issues if the Thai government and agencies have not clearly proved fair labour practices to the world's acknowledgement," chairman Nopporn Thepsithar said yesterday.

Even without the downgrades, export growth is expected to slow to only 1-2 per cent growth this year because of the unclear global economic outlook and political conflicts in many countries.

The TNSC plans to lower its export forecast next month after shipments declined by 1.2 per cent in the first five months.

Some buyers, particularly in the US and the EU, are closely monitoring Thailand's moves on labour policy. If Thailand and its businesses can clarify the labour issue to the satisfaction of their customers, they will continue to order goods, Nopporn believes.

To ensure sustainable export growth, the labour issue should be solved soon. Thai enterprises also need to diversify their export markets by relying less on the US and EU and focusing more on Asean, China and India, with their emerging growth and rising purchasing power.

The TNSC called on the Commerce Ministry to support export-promotion plans to new markets. For the long term, the government and the private sector need to manage labour issues stringently and deal with the problem of labour shortages.

The country should also urgently prepare for the Thailand-European Union Free Trade Agreement, even though that pact has not yet been finalised, he said.

Outbound shipments may not achieve the Commerce Ministry's target of 3.5-per-cent growth this year because of fluctuating currencies, rising political conflicts and tensions in many countries, along with the expected El Nino climatic phenomenon in the Asia-Pacific region.

The TNSC projects that if Thailand wants to push exports to 3-per-cent growth for the whole year, average shipments need to reach US$20.5 billion (Bt665 billion), or rise by 6 per cent in each remaining month, Nopporn said.


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