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Limited impact from US trade benefits suspension: Thailand

Bangkok

TRADE-RELIANT Thailand said President Donald Trump's decision to suspend some US trade benefits will affect only a small proportion of its exports.

The impact is expected to be limited and would cut annual export value by at most US$32.8 million in 2020, the Commerce Ministry said in a statement on Sunday. The US is Thailand's second-largest export market, and shipments were worth US$31.9 billion last year, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The US said on Friday it will suspend US$1.3 billion of benefits under the generalised system of preferences, and that Thai seafood products will be removed from the programme. It said the steps were triggered by concerns about workers' rights.

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Thai exports have struggled this year because of the strength of its currency and the fallout from the US-China trade war. The nation is on course for the slowest economic expansion in five years.

The generalised system of preferences provides preferential duty-free treatment for thousands of products to bolster the economies of developing nations, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.

The office said the suspension on Thai goods will take effect in six months and focus on products for which the US is a relatively important market for the South-east Asian nation, but where Thailand accounts for a relatively small share of US imports.

The eligibility of all Thai seafood products for the programme will also be revoked due to "long-standing worker rights issues in the seafood and shipping industries", the office said.

Thai Union Group, one of the world's biggest canned-tuna producers, said on Sunday it doesn't expect a material operational impact from the US decision.

Trade under the generalised system of preferences between Thailand and the US totalled US$4.4 billion in 2018, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative. BLOOMBERG