Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Thailand's Shippers brace for Wall Street fallout

Export orders will start to dip soon

NAREERAT WIRIYAPONG

Thailand's export sector will suffer from the US financial turmoil over the next four to five months in line with a downturn in consumption by the world's biggest economy, says Suchart Chantaranakaracha, the chairman of Thai National Shippers' Council (TNSC).

Exporters may not see a direct impact immediately since the orders they are shipping now were placed months ago and are due for delivery gradually from now until early next year, he said.

An additional challenge will be the weakening of the US dollar and subsequent appreciation in currencies in Asia. As a result, Mr Suchart said, some Thai exporters could feel uneasy.

"It is inevitable that we will see the impact on our export sector since the US consumes as much as 14% of Thai exports by value," he said.

The situation in the US may also affect other large economies including Europe and Japan, which consume Thai export products on par with the US.

For now, he said, no one knows how long the crisis will last, while the election in the US adds more uncertainty.

"So far this year, the growth in the export sector is likely to reach 24% but with these [new developments] factored in, if we can achieve only 15-16% growth next year that would [make people] very happy," he said.

As they await the formation of the new cabinet, businesses say that if the government can promote reconciliation, it would automatically boost confidence.

"All in all, confidence is the key, everything will be back on track if the government can boost confidence in the country," Mr Suchart said.

The TNSC yesterday signed a co-operation agreement with the Japan Institute of Logistics Systems (JILS) to improve logistics networks, human resources and information in Asean.

Tetsuo Shibata of the Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro) in Tokyo said Jetro planned to expand the co-operation with the Philippines and Indonesia this year, and to work with Indochinese countries next year.

"Thailand is the first nation we (Jetro) have joined hands with. If we succeed in developing a network here, we will expand throughout the region. We hope to see shippers here experience a seamless system," he said.

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