The United States’ latest report on the trade policies of its foreign trading partners makes it appear unlikely that Thailand will see its trade status with the US upgraded, with Washington commenting that Thailand’s import tariffs remain high, restricting market access, and pointing to slow progress on coordinated enforcement of intellectual property rights.

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US still has problems with Thai trade

The Thai baht has appreciated, but only to the extent of other regional exchange rates. The baht has appreciated 4.9 percent in 2009, compared for example to over 30 percent of the Brazilian real.

Key risks to the outlook are (i) political uncertainty and (ii) the timing of the withdrawal of fiscal and monetary stimulus. Increased political tensions may have a long-lasting impact on investment, and withdrawal of stimulus (in Thailand and the advanced economies) must be precisely timed to avoid macroeconomic imbalances (including new asset bubbles) while also ensuring that the recovery is on a sufficiently solid footing.

The market’s views on export performance in 2010 of Thailand have improved


The key risk to the global recovery lies in the need to get the timing of withdrawing fiscal and monetary stimulus just right. Withdrawal of fiscal stimulus too early may lead to another negative demand shock and a negative expectations spiral, whereas withdrawing the stimulus too late may lead to high inflation, further weakening of the US dollar, and possible asset price bubbles. In Thailand, for example, more than ten years since the 1997/1998 financial crisis banks still have bad loans in their books and the government still holds a large amount of debt related to the recapitalization of financial institutions. Given the expected length of recovery, it is important not to withdraw stimulus programs too soon, before the recovery is on a firm footing. On the other hand, macroeconomic imbalances are accumulating and eventually fiscal and monetary authorities, especially in the US, must consolidate their fiscal position and withdraw liquidity.

US still has problems with Thai trade

Despite the rebound, Thailand’s export recovery is still subject to several downside risks. A recent export pickup in East Asia benefits mainly from coordinated and massive policy responses in G-3 economies and China that have boosted their demand for imports, and inventory re-stocking worldwide that followed a swift and large de-stocking in early-2009 as orders fell less than production. These two factors are temporary, as governments have to unwind injections to maintain fiscal discipline and companies resume their normal stocking levels. In fact, data shows that US inventory-to-shipment ratios for computers, electronic products, and electronic appliances started to rise again in August and September, thus leading to weaker new orders . This likely adds pressure on Thailand’s electronic shipments to the US in the coming months.

About the author

Camilla Davidsson is a photographer based in Bangkok

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