Thailand Says Baht Surge No Bar to Solid Export Gains Next Year

  • Commerce minister says exports may climb at least 6% in 2018
  • Global recovery, rise in commodities seen benefiting Thailand

Thailand’s export engine will keep humming next year even as the nation grapples with Asia’s strongest currency, according to Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn.

Apiradi Tantraporn

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Overseas shipments in 2018 are set to climb about as much as this year’s 7 percent advance, Apiradi said in an interview Thursday on the sidelines of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meetings in Vietnam.

"This year export performance is doing very well," she said. "The pick up of the global economy is one factor. Secondly, commodity prices are picking up. In the short run, our exports should continue to grow in this direction. Next year, we’re expecting at least 6 percent growth, but we need to push hard."

Exports and tourism have stoked a recovery in the Thai economy, but the pace of expansion trails neighbors such as Indonesia and Vietnam amid subdued outlays by businesses and consumers. Political risk remains one of the challenges for investors in the military-run country, which is planning for a return to democracy from November 2018.

Apiradi said the government has started to implement major infrastructure projects to bolster investment. On trade relations, she said she’s hoping for progress on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership framework at the upcoming Asean summit in Manila.

The U.S. ran up a $19 billion trade deficit with Thailand last year, a potential bone of contention after President Donald Trump’s administration ratcheted up scrutiny of the biggest bilateral imbalances.

Apiradi countered that Thai corporate investment in the U.S., in sectors such as auto parts and food processing, has created roughly 80,000 jobs there.

"It’s not only trade," she said. "We have a lot of investment in the U.S."

Thailand’s baht has appreciated more than 5 percent against the U.S. dollar in the past year, the strongest performer in an Asian basket tracked by Bloomberg. 

Exports posted gains each month in 2017 despite the currency’s surge, and the Finance Ministry expects economic expansion to reach a five-year high of 3.8 percent this year.

— With assistance by Supunnabul Suwannakij, and Natnicha Chuwiruch

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