Relief for Thailand as Trump wins election

LIKE in the US, Thais have their views split on who should be the next US president but in absolute terms Thailand sets to gain economically and politically as Donald Trump won the US presidential election last week.

Tons of views on the topic have been expressed through media both mainstream and online as well as at various seminars as to the possible impacts on Thailand to such an extent it became one of the hottest topics until now.

The US presidential election issue has actually become more of Thai interest now that there are widespread protests in the US opposing Mr. Trump from becoming their country’s 45th president with online media accusing the unrest as being funded by George Soros, a major Hillary Clinton’s supporter.

With latest news suggesting that president Barrack Obama could invoke martial law, many Thais are not sure if Mr. Trump could eventually be appointed the president.

anti-trump-protests-in-usIf he really becomes president, his focus on domestic issues could be a big relief for the rest of the world where many believe the situation in the Middle East and South China sea would get better and will more or less benefit Thailand.

Dr. Narongchai Akrasanee, former Commerce Minister and Senator, said at a seminar on Thursday right after the US election result was known, that in the past the issue of terrorism has brought the US to play key roles in the internal issues of various countries especially in the Middle East including Syria, where eventually conflicts with Russia arose and many countries are afraid the conflict (with China on the South China sea disputes) could arise in the region.

With Mr. Trump being President, the situations are expected to improve, he said.

Where economic implications are concerned, he predicted the formal policy statement to be announced after his appointment will be based on his character as a wealthy businessman.

“That’s normal, like the military, they will lead their policy with power, (Phra) Dhammachayo will lead with faith while billionaires will lead with wealth or cash or revenue.’’

And because Mr. Trump is a Republican, which is business oriented against Democrat’s government oriented stance, his policy is expected to be along that line.

“Any example? Yes, we can look at Ronald Reagan’s Reaganomics in 1984-1991,” he said adding that such policy is concentrated on the supply side by reducing production costs to create competitiveness.

“I cannot say exactly as to the details of the policy to be announced but it’s most likely that such policy will not hurt the businessmen’s pockets. You can compare that with the policy by the businessman who became Thailand’s leader in the recent past in that respect.”

Where “power” is concerned, a nation’s power is based on arms and wealth.  The US has plenty of arms but not anymore the wealth power because it has been riddled with huge amount of debts, US$23 trillion.  He said it’s likely that from now on the US may have to share the leadership with others like China, Russia.

“So it’s time for Thailand to adjust ourselves to be line with the new world’s balance of power and Mr. Trump will help us do that.”  Countries are adjusting, like the Philippines, which is doing it a hard way, he said, adding Thailand can choose to adjust in a more subtle way.

Where implications on trade and investment is concerned, many said with Mr. Trump’s policy to make changes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement means Thailand stands to benefit from such a move.

Thailand has been under pressure all along to join TPP as foreign investors have threatened not to come to Thailand or to move to TTP members like Vietnam to enjoy better benefits.

Although Thailand is not one of the four Southeast Asian countries currently part of the U.S.-led TPP, it along with the Philippines and Indonesia,  have expressed their intention  to be part of the pact further down the line to join other ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

Studies on this issue found that Thailand could benefit in some sectors and lose in others as a result of TPP participation.   Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said as more than 60 per cent of the economy relied on exports, the TPP would definitely affect its exports.

FTA Watch spokeswoman Kannika Kittiwetchakun said that if Thailand decided to join the TPP, it would need to accept the extension of medicine patent protection from one to 10 years, which could affect the national social health-guarantee program. Thailand is also under pressure from Japan to join TPP so that their car manufacturers benefit more.

Supachai Panitchpakdi, who is a former director-general of the World Trade Organization, warned in August this year that the Thai government should not rush into joining the TPP, and a trade agreement should not only benefit business people but also be fair to consumers. It was easy for developed countries to decide to join TPP but not for developing ones like Thailand.


Top: Some of US President-elect Donald Trump’s policies are positive for Thailand. Photo: CNN

Inset: Protesters gather near the sea wall at Ocean Beach following an anti-Trump march through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on Sunday, Photo: Michael Short/San Francisco Chronicle

By Kowit Sanandang



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