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Steel output to shrink 43% in Thailand

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Thailand’s steel production is forecast to shrink by 43 per cent in the first half of the year due mainly to a high inventory level and low demand, the Iron and Steel Institute of Thailand said yesterday.

Production is expected to fall to 2.632 million tonnes, against 4.618 million tonnes in the first six months of last year. However, the institute is optimistic that output will pick up in the second half if the government’s stimulus package is effective and existing inventory is released.

Recent crashes in Thailand’s GDP and export markets, plus the drop in tourism fuelled by recession and last year’s domestic political turmoil, have dispelled illusions that the country is insulated from the effects of the global downturn.

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Steel output to shrink 43%

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Numerous indicators of economic health are hitting the red, foreign investment is evaporating, unemployment is surging, and credit lines are freezing up. Thailand’s government still says there is a possibility of positive growth this year, despite facing a rougher ride than in the 1997 Asian financial crisis as conditions infest the real economy on a broader scale.
Volumes of untreated domestic sewage, industrial wastewater and solid hazardous wastes have risen dramatically in recent years. The result is that roughly one third of Thailand’s surface water bodies are considered to be of poor quality. Clearly Thailand needs to focus on more effective enforcement of environmental laws; stronger institutional capacity, both national and local; and increased investments in pollution prevention and control, with private sector participation.

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These include both universal tariff reductions, which are applicable to goods from all countries, and specific tariff reductions that result from free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries and regions. For example, since June 2008, a wide range of agricultural and manufactured products from ASEAN member countries, China, India, and New Zealand enjoy lower or no tariffs. Among others, they are butter, vegetable extracts and fats, pharmaceutical products, paper and tubes for a medical use, pumps for liquid, air and vacuum pumps, commercial trucks, steel tubes, iron wires, aluminum structures, dish washing machines, weighting machines, and switching circuits and boards parts. In addition, the government will also cut or cancel tariffs for three types of animal feeds (soybean, corn, and fish meals) in 2009. The magnitude of changes varies across different trade agreements, such as those with the WTO, ASEAN, ACMECS28, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

Steel output to shrink 43%

The government also uses tariff measures as a tool to promote energy policy. To encourage the use of natural gas as an alternative fuel for vehicles, the government has exempted import duties of many natural gas-related tools and equipment such as bio-fuel conversion kits, natural gas containers, and chasses.

External stability in Thailand was upheld by high international reserves, while trade and current account were close to balance. Regarding internal stability, inflation rose from last year in line with higher oil prices, despite a downward trend during the second half of the year. Unemployment rate remained low in Thailand in 2008 but employment started to deteriorate in the forth quarter, particularly in the production sector affected by economic slowdown.

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