May 13, 2019 / 5:48 AM / 2 months ago

Thai central bank says has not manipulated currency for trade advantage

FILE PHOTO: Thailand's central bank is seen at the Bank of Thailand in Bangkok, Thailand April 26, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s central bank has not intervened in the trading of the baht to gain a trade advantage with the United States, an assistant governor said on Monday, amid speculation that Washington may soon add the country to a currency watch list.

“Thailand has some trade surplus with the United States, so it could be on the watch list,” Chantavarn Sucharitakul said in a text message to reporters.

But, “Thailand has always communicated that it has not intervened in the currency for an advantage in trade with the United States,” she said, adding that it was open for further discussions.

Her comments come after a report that an expanded U.S. Treasury watch list expected this month could include Russia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Ireland or Malaysia, all of which have large trade surpluses with the United States.

Thai authorities have said in the past they will intervene in foreign exchange markets to “smooth out” any excessive moves in the baht. Exports are a key driver of Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

The United States had a goods trade deficit of $4.3 billion with Thailand in January-March this year, after a deficit of $19.3 billion in the whole of 2018, according to U.S. Census Bureau.

In the first quarter of 2019, the United States was Thailand’s biggest export market, accounting for 14.2 percent of Thai shipments, Thai customs data showed.

The baht has appreciated by 2.8 percent against the greenback so far this year, making it the best performing currency in Asia.

Reporting by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Richard Borsuk & Kim Coghill

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