Off The Wire
UPDATE 1-Thai exports likely to grow more than 6 pct this year-minister
* Govt to boost trade in growing markets - minister
* FinMin sees economy "taking off" this year
(Adds details, finance minister's comment)
BANGKOK, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Thailand's exports are likely to grow more than 6 percent this year, the country's commerce minister said on Wednesday, despite the baht hovering at more than four-year highs against the U.S. dollar.
Corporates are talking about an export growth of 6 percent, but the commerce ministry still sees room for an increase by boosting trade in growing markets, Sontirat Sontijirawong said at a business seminar.
The ministry's export target is likely to be set at more than 6 percent, after consultations with officials later this month on measures to step up trade, he said.
"The baht's strength is just one factor for exports and that will not impede our trade promotion in markets with good potential," Sontirat said.
The baht traded at 31.53 per dollar at 0905 GMT, having appreciated by 3.3 percent against the greenback so far this year. It gained 9 percent last year.
Exports, a key driver of Thailand's economic growth, jumped 9.9 percent last year after rising just 0.5 percent in 2016.
However, the Thai National Shippers' Council said on Tuesday export growth could slow to just 3.5 percent this year. Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong told reporters on Wednesday that a higher 550-billion-baht ($17.47 billion) budget deficit will help the economy "take off" this year, with "higher and sustainable growth".
The deficit, including an extra 100-billion-baht borrowing, is projected for investment in infrastructure projects and developing the rural economy, he said.
The finance ministry expects Southeast Asia's second-largest economy to have grown 4.0 percent in 2017 - the fastest pace since 2012 - and to expand 4.2 percent this year. Official 2017 GDP data is due on Feb. 19.
($1 = 31.49 baht)
<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Thai GDP, exports ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^> (Reporting by Kitiphong Thaichareon and Pracha Hariraksapitak; Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Sunil Nair)