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Salo in, seafood out? Trump restores trade benefits for Ukraine, but scraps them for Thailand

Salo in, seafood out? Trump restores trade benefits for Ukraine, but scraps them for Thailand
US President Donald Trump has suspended tariff breaks for some Thai goods worth $1.3 billion and almost simultaneously brought back duty-free trade for certain Ukrainian products.

The suspension, based on concerns over worker rights violations, will target Thai products for which the US is a relatively important market, including seafood exports that enjoyed duty-free treatment under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. The decision, set to take effect on April 25, will affect about a third of Thailand's products included in the program, the US Trade Representative's office announced.

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Despite Thailand accounting for a relatively small share of US imports, the move could add problems for the country’s export-reliant economy, struggling to boost economic growth and falling shipments. The Southeast Asian nation’s exports to the US stood at around $32 billion in 2018, according to Bloomberg data.

Bangkok is currently seeking clarification on Washington’s decision and is expected to officially comment on it on Monday morning. The country’s commerce ministry said that it needs some time “to assess the impact” as it just got the US hit list, according to the media citing Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director general of the ministry’s trade policy and strategy office.

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Meanwhile, trade benefits were renewed for a range of Ukrainian-made items around two years after restrictions were imposed. In December 2017, the duty-free treatment was revoked as the Trump administration claimed that Kiev failed to adequately protect intellectual property rights. The situation has improved since then, according to Washington, allowing it to reinstate a third of the $36 million in trade benefits that had originally been removed for Ukraine.

Earlier this week the Washington Post reported that Washington was stalling on the decision on Ukraine's trade privileges as the paperwork for it had been ready since August. The report said that the document was pulled back after Trump’s then national security advisor, John Bolton, told the US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, that the president would oppose any action that benefited Ukraine's newly elected government.

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