Trump aims to end Asean deficit

Thailand’s fishing fleet exports heavily to the US. 

Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia are among 16 countries that Donald Trump has named in an order calling for an investigation into the US trade imbalance.

Trump said “foreign importers that cheat” would be targeted when he signed two executive orders which he claimed would slice the US trade deficit.

US exports to Thailand last year were worth US$10.6 billion and imports totalled US$29.5 billion, leaving a US$18.9 billion deficit, the US Census Bureau reported. The gap was US$15.4 billion in 2015 and US$14.3 billion in 2014.

Wilbur Ross, US commerce secretary, said the review of the trade position would focus on individual deficits with countries and whether issues like “cheating”, poor trade agreements, World Trade Organisation “constraints” or “misaligned” currencies were to blame.

“Needless to say, the number one major source is China,” Ross told the media.

It is feared that Thai vehicle parts and tyres shipped to the US could suffer if Trump translated his protectionist rhetoric into legislation and imposed a “border adjustment tax”. About 35 per cent of all tyres imported to the US come from Thailand.

The USA and China were Thailand’s two top export markets last year, with each accounting for about 11 per cent of the kingdom’s maritime exports. The Americans buy Thai electrical machinery, rubber, precious stones and processed meat and fish.

“They’re cheaters! From now on, those who break the rules will face the consequences and they’ll be very severe consequences,” Trump said.

He blamed foreign powers and “bad trade deals” for the trade deficit.

“Thousands of factories have been stolen from our country, but these voiceless Americans now have a voice in the White House,” Trump declared.

“Under my administration, the theft of American prosperity will end. We’re going to defend our industry and create a level playing field for the American worker, finally.”

The first of the two orders will require a report on the causes of the trade imbalance within 90 days, also focussing on China, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Ireland, Italy, Korea, India, France, Switzerland, Taiwan and Canada.

The White House is planning public meetings to consult manufacturers, service providers, workers, farmers and consumers.

Trump’s second order calls for powers for customs agents to use legal tools to collect anti-dumping duties allegedly owed to the US authorities. The Trump administration is proposing to require new importers and those found guilty of abusing trade deals, to post a bond before their goods are allowed to dock at US ports.

Picture credit: Flickr