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Trade counsellors confident of 5% export growth despite political woes

Thai trade counsellors from 62 overseas posts foresee export-growth challenges this year due to the political chaos, while the lack of an authorised government has caused the country to lose trade opportunities.

On the first day of a meeting of the trade counsellors in Bangkok yesterday, they shared the view that the political chaos had damaged Thailand's trade image in some markets and Thai enterprises needed to work hard to maintain buyer confidence.

But they are confident that Thailand should achieve an export-growth target of about 5 per cent this year.

However, they warned that next year the Kingdom might face more difficulties because of the pending loss of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) in the European Union and tougher competition in many markets.

Chulit Stavorn, the commercial counsellor of the Thai Trade Office in London, said the political problem had delayed trade negotiations between Thailand and the EU, which would lower export growth for many Thai products, particularly in the food sector.

Thailand is scheduled to lose the GSP for about 30 products that are exported to Britain and are worth about US$1 billion (Bt32 billion) in total annual sales. They are mainly chicken and seafood, including shrimp. Chulit said British buyers would closely monitor price rises caused by the loss of the GSP, and Thai exports could be affected.

Because of the lack of a free-trade agreement with the EU, Chulit said enterprises needed to promote their products stringently, while improving quality and packaging to make them more attractive.

Despite the lack of an FTA, exports to Britain are projected to grow by 5 per cent this year as the UK economy has resumed fairly healthy growth.

Ponpimon Petcharakul, the commercial counsellor of the Thai Trade Office in Vienna, said exports to the EU were projected to grow by 5 per cent this year as economies in the grouping recover. But she said fishery exporters would face difficulty after the loss of the GSP.

She noted that the European importers were still confident trading with Thailand and had not been sensitive to the political strife here. However, some countries might closely monitor the situation and some buyers might hesitate to place long-term orders over concerns that an FTA will not be inked in the near future.

Kaewta Booncharoen, director of the Thai Trade Centre in Buenos Aires, said shipments to Latin America were projected to grow 5 per cent this year.

"Latin America is one of the [high] potential markets for Thai exporters. However, [despite] the long distance, Thai exporters should penetrate the Latin American markets more. There are many potential products [with export value] in those markets, mainly sport shirts and souvenirs."

Phatai Sooksommai, commercial counsellor of the Thai Trade Office in Tokyo, said the political chaos in Thailand had affected some Japanese buyers' confidence, while the increase in the value-added-tax rate there last month had lowered purchasing power. Thai shipments to Japan are expected to expand by only 2 per cent this year, lower than a previous projection of 5 per cent.


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