Thai exports rose steadily with export value in January fetching  over US$ 20 billion, or 17.6%, the highest in five years, according to the Thai National Shippers’ Council (TNSC).

The value of Thai exports in January stood at US$20.1 billion, an increase of 17.6% year on year, TNSC reported.

The TNSC said motor vehicles and parts, computer components, and food contributed to the record growth.

It said it would maintain the 2018 export growth target at 5.5% year on year on average, due to the global economic recovery, higher fuel prices, and the increasing prices of crops.

The value of merchandise exports surged with a growth of 16.7 percent compared to the same period last year, the highest growth seen in 62 months, according to a BOT statement.

The expansion was on the back of :

(1 ) continued increase in crude oil price which contributed to the increase in export of petroleum – related and chemical products;

(2) increase in exports of automotive and parts, particularly tires;

(3) increase in exports from industries which recently expanded their production capacity such as hard disk drives (HDD); and

(4 ) continued improvement in external demand for agro – manufacturing products such as rice, rubber products , sugar, and cassava.

However, fluctuations in the US currency, trade barriers, and the nationwide minimum wage hike have been noted as risk factors.

TNSC president Ghayapad Tantipipatpong said US restrictions on trade under the America First policy, and countermeasures of its trade partners, which are currently intensifying, must be monitored closely.

Four types of Thai products have so far been affected by the US measures, including a hike in import duties on washing machines, solar panels, steel and aluminum and rubber bands.

Thailand is now watching closely possible impact on its exports after President Donald Trump announced he would impose steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

Trade Policy and Strategy Office (TPSO) director-general Pimchanok Vonkorpon said she still could not anticipate how much impact Thai exporters would suffer or whether it would affect the country’s competitiveness.

She said Thailand needed to monitor closely the development of the US trade barriers under what was called the president’s “safeguard” policy.

The president’s announced steep increase in import tariffs on steel and aluminum was meant for all exporting countries at same rates that would affect all countries equally, the TPSO chief explained.

But she said affected countries could seek negotiations if it was found that the US safeguard measures do not follow the regulations of the World Trade Organisation, are too high, unfair, and not transparent.

Ms Pimchanok added that the announced tariffs on steel and aluminum came after the US has recently slapped quota system on solar panels and residential large washing machines on all exporting countries, including Thailand.

She said the TPSO would closely monitor the US safeguard policy to look into which of Thai exports would risk facing the high tariff so that it could notify Thai manufacturers  in time to cope with it.

Mr Trump said he plans to impose next week the toughest of the three remedies proposed by the Commerce Department, a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum.

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