U.S. duty-free loss could cost Thai products $60 million: minister

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BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai exporters facing the loss of duty-free status for certain goods sold to the United States could incur losses of up to 1.8 billion baht ($59.68 million) per year, Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanavisit told reporters on Sunday.

The United States on Friday suspended duty-free treatment for $1.3 billion worth of Thai imports, including seafood products, under its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, saying Thailand did not “afford workers in Thailand internationally recognized worker rights.”

The tariffs that would take effect in six months would be 4-5% instead of zero, Jurin said.

“Thai products that are sold in the U.S. will have a burden … which comes to around 1.5 to 1.8 billion baht,” he said.

Separately, Labor Minister Chatumongol Sonakul said Thailand is working on measures to ensure migrant worker rights, but that those would be based on Thai standards and laws.

“We refer to international standards, but do not translate them into law,” Chatumongol told reporters.

“One of the issues is large unions … we don’t want that – we have company unions,” he said, adding there would be more negotiations but that migrant workers should not have more rights than Thai workers.

The world’s largest producer of canned tuna and owner of the Chicken of the Sea brand, Thai Union Group Pcl (BK:), said in a statement that the move should not affect its products.

“The decision will not have a material impact on Thai Union Group’s business, as no seafood or pet food products sold into the U.S. from Thailand are currently covered by the GSP,” it said.

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