Bank of Thailand Unfazed by U.S. Currency Watchlist Inclusion

The Bank of Thailand has responded to the U.S. decision to keep the nation on watch for currency manipulation by asserting it has stepped into the market only to curb volatility in the baht.

The central bank is committed to exchange-rate flexibility, with “interventions limited only to curbing excessive volatility and rapid movements of the baht on both sides,” Assistant Governor Chantavarn Sucharitakul said in a statement Saturday, adding that “Thailand has never used the exchange rate as a tool to gain an unfair trade advantage.”

Thailand was among 11 countries on the Treasury’s monitoring list announced Friday, as it meets two of the three relevant criteria. The country has a trade surplus of more than $20 billion with the U.S. and a current account surplus in excess of 2% of gross domestic product. The Biden administration’s first foreign-exchange policy report refrained from citing any trading partner as a manipulator, though Switzerland, Taiwan and Vietnam met thresholds for the label.

Thailand remains on the U.S. list in keeping with guidelines that require monitoring for two consecutive periods, the central bank statement said. Chantavarn saw no impact on “business flows and activities between private sector engaging in bilateral trade and investment with the U.S.”

“More importantly, the assessment does not impede the ability of the BOT to fulfill its mandate on implementing macroeconomic policies to safeguard domestic stability,” the statement said.

Thailand’s baht rallied 5.8% against the greenback in the fourth quarter. That was despite the sharpest economic contraction in more than two decades last year as the pandemic devastated the country’s key growth drivers, tourism and exports. The baht has tumbled 4.1% so far this year -- the worst performance in Asia after the Japanese yen -- as a rebound in Covid-19 cases threatens to derail the recovery and delay a reopening to foreign visitors.

The central bank said it will “closely monitor developments of trade and current account balance,” noting that the latter was on a declining trend as a result of the dropoff in tourism.

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