AMID THE escalating US-China trade war, Thailand’s exports fell in September for the first time in 19 months as shipments of automobiles and gold declined and Thailand’s trading partners shifted to new markets, the Commerce Ministry said.
Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of the ministry’s Trade Policy and Strategy Office, said Thai exports in September shrank 5.2 per cent year on year to US$20.699 billion (Bt678 billion) and imports rose 9.9 per cent to $20.212 billion, yielding a trade surplus of $487 million for the month.
Shipments of automobiles and gold contracted by $900 million, or 5.3 per cent, due to last year’s high base, while the Sino-US trade spat resulted in a contraction of 8 per cent in Thai exports, worth $402 million. Thailand’s trading countries also turned to new markets, dragging Thai exports down by 1 per cent or $190 million.
Excluding gold and oil, Thai exports fell 1.9 per cent year on year in the last month. Excluding all the factors mentioned above, Thai exports edged down 0.8 per cent in September.
For the first nine months of this year, Thai exports increased 8.13 per cent to $189.729 million and imports climbed 15.2 per cent to $186.891 billion, yielding a trade surplus of $2.838 billion.
The direct impact on Thai exports from higher US tariffs on solar cells, washing machines and some types of steel and aluminium amounted to $75 million. Indirectly, Thailand, as material supplier in the supply chain, suffered a negative impact worth about $392 million while gaining about $65 million from Thai products that served as substitutes for Chinese products in US.
In September, exports of Thai agricultural and agro-industry exports dropped 0.6 per cent, led by rubber and sugar. However, rice, tapioca products, beverages, and processed, canned, frozen, fresh fruits and vegetables continued to grow.
From January to September, Thai agricultural and agro-industry shipments advanced 3.4 per cent.
Thai shipments of industrial goods dropped in September for the first time in 19 months, contracting 6.7 per cent year on year, led by gold and automobiles and parts.
Thai shipments to China fell 14.1 per cent year on year in September, led by rubber, rubber products, integrated circuits, wood and wood products, automobiles and parts. Shipments to the Middle East and South Asia also declined in the month.
For the first nine months, Thai shipments to China grew 3.8 per cent.
Meanwhile, Thai shipments to the US rose 1.2 per cent in September, led by computers, rubber products, jewellery and accessories, phones and parts, and plastic pellets. The nine-month figure expanded to 5 per cent.
Pimchanok said that despite the global economic slowdown, uncertainties of trade policy and the US-China trade war, Thai exports are still estimated to clock 8 per cent growth this year, as targeted, due to opportunities to sell substitutes for products hit by the trade war as well as exports to new markets.
Banjongjit Angsusingh, the director-general of the Department of International Trade Promotion, said that executive directors of Thai trade centres have been ordered to expedite the strategy to boost exports. They include a plan to expand Thai exports to potential and new markets in existing and new destinations such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam and penetrate provincial markets in China.
“The export contraction in September is not unexpected and we’re not surprised by it. We have been preparing and adjusting to maintain our export destinations and the private sector is confident Thai exports will continue to grow,” she said.