Acting U.S. Ambassador to Thailand optimistic on GSP for the country

Chargé d’ Affaires, a.i. of the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Michael Heath voiced optimism that Thailand would win back trade privileges from the U.S., and praised corporate social responsibility initiatives by American companies as part of U.S. soft diplomacy in Thailand.

As Thailand’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) status was withdrew by the U.S. Trade Representative, which has reduced tariffs on exports to the U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told the Thai government during the ASEAN Summit held recently in Bangkok, however, that the U.S. is open to discussions about possibly keeping GSP for Thailand.

“Part of the requirement of the GSP is you have to meet the international standard of labor law. We have the U.S. labor organization filing the complaint in 2013 that migrant workers are not allowed to form a union. We feel that they are not earning as much wages as they should, and that’s making it less competitive for our companies,” Heath told the Bangkok Post at the 2019 American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) CSR Excellence Recognition Award Thanksgiving Dinner last week in Bangkok.

However, Acting Ambassador Heath “played down concerns and assured Thailand it will win it back after it improves governance for migrant workers,” according to the Bangkok Post.

Since 2014, the Thai government has passed a raft of new laws, rules, and regulations aimed at documenting the estimated 2 million foreign workers in the Kingdom and improving their status and safety. Thailand also signed and ratified several International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions to strengthen the rights and conditions of workers and migrant workers during that time. To date, the country has ratified 19 ILO conventions.

Reforms are ongoing and the ILO has noted the progress made by Thailand on several occasions.

Photo courtesy of