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Thai E-Newsletter, Volume V, No.12

TRADE CHIEF TACKLES CHANGING WORLD
Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn sets strategy for the country's export recovery despite gloomy global forecasts. Apiradi Tantraporn, the international trade veteran who has spent nearly all her working life at the Commerce Ministry, believes the international trade landscape has now completely changed. World trade now means becoming engaged in almost everything from labor, the environment and climate change to emerging formats of non-tariff rules and regulations. Like it or not, those issues are inevitable, she says, and global consumers are powerful enough to force the world's leading department stores to withdraw products from their shelves.

"The time is ripe for all parties to adjust -- manufacturers, farmers, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), industries and the ways the Commerce Ministry itself and its staff work," says Mrs Apiradi.

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Thai E-Newsletter, Volume V, No.11

ROYAL THAI GOVERNMENT AIMS TO SHORE UP TRADE WITH USA
The Royal Thai Government is attempting to protect Thailand's trade benefits with the United States after the US Trade Representative announced it would investigate labor practices in the Kingdom. The United States Trade Representative (USTR) is slated to begin a special investigation into Thailand's reported use of forced labor in January & may cut Thailand's tariff privileges despite recently extending the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for the Kingdom to more than 3,000 items.

In response to a claim by the American Federation of Labour & Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Deputy Commerce Minister Suvit Maesincee said yesterday that Thailand would prove to the US that the government & the private sector had stringently taken action against the practice of forced & illegal labor. He said the US should have observed the country's serious attempt to solve the problem.

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Thai E-Newsletter, Volume V, No.10

RCEP MEMBERS AGREE TO ELIMINATE TARIFFS ON 65% OF TRADE IN GOODS
October 26, 2015. The Commerce Ministry said last week that the 16 countries in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) had finally agreed to eliminate tariffs on 65 per cent of trade in goods among them, creating huge benefits for all and helping to compensate for potential losses as a result of Thailand's current non-involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The RCEP agreement is expected to be signed during the ASEAN leaders' summit to be held in Malaysia in November, and enforced next year.

Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said the accomplishment of waiving tariffs for 65 per cent of trade in goods - equivalent to 8,000-9,000 items - represented the greatest start to full market liberalization between the pact's signatories. The RCEP should help compensate for the potential loss arising from Thailand not yet having joined the TPP, she said. Under the agreed first step in RCEP trade liberalization, tariffs covering 65 per of trade will be immediately cut to zero following the pact's implementation.

In the next phase, tariffs on another 20 per cent of trade in goods will be gradually reduced to zero within 10 years, while import duties for the remaining 15 per cent will remain in place or be gradually reduced to 5-10 per cent, as those products comprise the list of sensitive goods drawn up by member states.

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Thai E-Newsletter for September, 2015

PRAYUT LOOKS TO SHORE UP US TRADE TIES
September 27, 2015. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha sought to ease concerns over human trafficking and forced labor in a meeting with senior United States business lobbyists Saturday, an apparent effort to shore up confidence amid weakening economic data.

Speaking at a dinner with members of the US-Asean Business Council in New York, the prime minister said his military government was committed to solving long-standing problems including human trafficking, forced labor and illegal fishing. He said the government was intensifying its efforts to wipe out corruption and promote transparency in the state sector.

Trade and investment-related regulations were also being streamlined and standardized, he told the group, while labor skills were being upgraded and public infrastructure improved to help draw investors.

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Thai E-Newsletter for August, 2015

APIRADI IN PLEDGE TO STIMULATE TRADE
August 29, 2015.Newly appointed Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn has vowed to tackle trade obstacles to private enterprise, stimulating border trade and faltering exports. Outlining her policies yesterday the Minster Tantraporn would focus on: Reducing people's cost of living, product prices and developing local economies. She would also setup a special task force to work with other ministries to tackle farm prices and boost exports.

She would further develop geographical indication (GI) registration for Thai products and promote their exports. An example cited was Doi Chang and Doi Tung - Thai coffee varieties cultivated in the hill and mountain region of Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand which recently were awarded GI status from the European Union, joining Thailand's first GI Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Rong Hai variety of jasmine rice, which received the protected status in March 2013.

Additionally, the Commerce Ministry would work to promote the service sector, which covers films/film-making, fashion, lifestyule, health & beauty, logistics, retail and franchising.

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Thai E-Newsletter for July, 2015

OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT'S TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS REPORT, 2015
July 27, 2015.In reference to the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2015 that was released in Washington DC on Monday 27 July 2015, Thailand is maintained in Tier 3 for the second consecutive year.

Thailand takes note of such an evaluation but believes that the placement of Thailand in Tier 3 does not accurately reflect the significant efforts undertaken by the Government and its partnership with private sector and civil society in making the tangible progress that has occurred on all fronts in the previous year.

Since August 2014, the Thai government has translated its genuine political will to combat human trafficking into practical policies, effective implementation, and concrete results: On policy & policy implementation, the government has (i) declared combating trafficking in persons a national priority, (ii) set up a Policy Committee on Combating Human Trafficking and Illegal Fishing chaired by the Prime Minister and 5 sub-committees chaired by the Deputy Prime Ministers and relevant Ministers and (iii) revised and enacted several laws and regulations including the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. On prosecution & law enforcement, relevant agencies intensified their efforts, which led to the crackdowns of trafficking syndicates as well as many arrests and punishments of high-ranking officials complicit in human trafficking. On prevention, the holistic solution to address labour exploitation in the fishery sector was introduced in tandem with the expedited registration and legalization of more than 1.6 million illegal migrants. These policies provided them with legal protection and, therefore, reduced their vulnerability to human trafficking. On protection, victim identifications by multi-disciplinary teams and victim care have been improved. On partnership, Thailand has played a leading role in forging bilateral and multilateral partnerships to ensure that this highly complex issue was addressed in a concerted manner and achieved the appropriate balance between human rights and security considerations.

Despite the tier ranking, Thailand will continue to do its utmost to overcome the remaining challenges, while also promoting security and upholding our long and distinguished tradition of adherence to humanitarianism. We will also seek to further strengthen cooperation and partner with all stakeholders including private sector, civil society, international organizations and international community.

For more information please see the original announcement at the Royal Thai Governments' Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Thai E-Newsletter for June, 2015

THE U.S. GENERALIZED SYSTEM OF PREFERENCES (GSP) IS RENEWED
June 29, 2015. U.S. President Barack Obama signed the renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. The GSP program is the U.S.'s oldest trade preference program, instituted in 1974 and providing preferential duty-free entry into the U.S. for almost 5,000 products from 122 beneficiary countries. The GSP program allowed U.S. businesses to import many necessary goods and materials, both for resale as well as for incorporation into the manufacture of other products. The GSP program last expired in July 2013 and imports of the same products from beneficiary countries since that time have been subject to normal U.S. import duties

With the President's signature for the renewal of GSP complete, import duties for eligible products from eligible beneficiary countries will once again receive special tariff/duty treatment helping U.S. importers, consumers and developing supplier countries around the world.

For more information please see the original announcement at The White House's official website

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Thai E-Newsletter for May, 2015

Thai Exports have turned the Corner

Thai exports have turned the corner

The Commerce Ministry is optimistic that the country's exports will recover soon after bottoming out in April.

It cites a slowdown in the rate of export contraction, rising imports in foreign markets and increased export competitiveness as a result of the weakening baht.

"Shipments will show stronger signs of recovery in the remaining months [of the year]. Export growth in the second quarter should rebound to show positive expansion," said Somkiat Triratpan, director of the ministry's Trade Policy and Strategy Bureau.

The ministry reported yesterday that exports had dropped 1.7 per cent year on year in April to US$16.9 billion (Bt570.5 billion), and by 3.99 per cent to $70.26 billion in the first four months of the year.

Exports are normally low in April as the month has many holidays and there is a seasonal slowdown in both March and April each year, but they will soon recover in the coming months, said Somkiat.

Excluding exports of oil and gold, which do not significantly benefit the economy, Thai shipments last month grew by 0.1 per cent to $14.73 billion, he added.

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Thai E-Newsletter for April, 2015

Ministry told to draw up laws to prevent illegal Fishing

The Fisheries Act 2015 has been approved by His Majesty the King with notice about the new law published in the Royal Gazette, Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan said yesterday. Prawit instructed the Agriculture Ministry to draw up organic laws so they are ready to be implemented in 60 days to solve problems of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, as required by the European Union. Prawit, who is also defence minister, presided over the Cabinet meeting yesterday

PM's Office spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd quoted Prawit yesterday as saying that any loopholes in the new act needed to combat IUU fishing should be covered by executive decrees, and they could be implemented immediately after the Act takes effect. Sansern said Prawit instructed the Council of State to formulate an announcement empowering the Royal Thai Navy to work with relevant agencies to act on resolutions of the committee tasked with countering illegal fishing by Thai vessels or companies. The agencies were the Royal Thai Police, the Labour Ministry, the Interior Ministry, and the Agriculture Ministry.

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Thai E-Newsletter for March, 2015

Food exports set for 7% rise

Food exports are expected to grow by about 7% this year on the back of strong demand in Asian markets, says the National Food Institute (NFI). President Petch Chinabutr yesterday said food exports could reach 1.08 trillion baht, up 6.93% from 1.01 trillion last year. Demand is expected to rise from major food importers such as Japan and Asean members, particularly the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos and Indonesia. Asean members are the biggest importers of Thai food at 200 billion baht, followed by Japan at 150 billion, the US at 130 billion, Europe at 120 billion and China at 110 billion. He said food as a raw material accounted for 60% of total food export value of 1.01 trillion baht last year, while processed and cooked foods comprised the rest.

However, Wisit Limprana, chairman of an NFI subcommittee called Thai Food Heritage, said it would be another tough year for food exports. Demand should not be very strong since the economies of major Thai food importers remain weak, he said. The NFI suggests food exporters seek innovations to improve their products to be more competitive in the world market.

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