Commerce Minister to pursue trade deals to revive exports

The new Minister of Commerce vowed last week to reduce trade barriers and pursue free-trade agreements with the European Union and other markets.  The moves are among several measures designed to breathe new life into exports and boost economic growth.

Minister of Commerce Jurin Laksanawisit told the Bangkok Post Forum 2019 that he would urgently strive to restart talks on a free-trade agreement between Thailand and the European Union. He also vowed to push for the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by 2020.

The RCEP would provide Thailand with plentiful opportunities to expand its exports, Jurin said. The RCEP will be the world’s largest free-trade deal. It encompasses 16 countries: the ten countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its six dialogue partners India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. It represents a market of 3.5 billion people and 32.3 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

Thailand’s exports have been slowing because of global trade tensions, slower growth in several of its export markets, and the continuing appreciation of its currency, the baht, against the dollar. The baht has strengthened against the dollar more than any currency in Asia in recent months, but that strength has made Thai exports less competitive on price.

The minister said he would also pursue talks with Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar to increase the volume and value of border trade between Thailand and its neighbors. He also said that he would secure income guarantees for farmers growing rice, rubber, tapioca, oil palm, and corn. Farmers have been hit hard for fluctuating commodity prices.