Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, which countries are dominant in the market, and other issues that affect trade.
Thailand, the second largest economy in ASEAN after Indonesia, is an upper middle-income country with an open economy, a gross domestic product (GDP) of $503.5 billion, and a negative 6.1 percent annual growth in 2020.
Thailand is the 25th largest export destination for the United States. Two-way trade of goods in 2020 was $48.8 billion, with $37.6 billion in Thai exports to the United States and $11.2 billion in U.S. exports to Thailand. U.S. exports to Thailand decreased by 16 percent, while U.S. imports from Thailand increased by 12 percent in 2020.
An export-dependent economy, Thailand exported a total of $226.7 billion worth of goods in 2020. The United States was Thailand’s top export market (15%), followed by China (13%) and Japan (10%). The top export items in terms of value are motor cars, parts and accessories (9%), electronic goods and computers (8%), precious stones and jewelry (8%), rubber products (5%), and plastics (3%).
According to Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), the Thai economy declined by 6.1 percent in 2020, compared with a growth of two percent in 2019. Exports of goods, private consumption expenditure, and total investments contracted by seven percent, one percent, and five percent, respectively. The headline inflation was at negative one percent and the current account registered a surplus of three percent of GDP.
At the time of writing, the Thai economy is projected to grow by one to two percent in 2021 as the negative impact of a surge of COVID-19 in Thailand offsets the positive effects of the recovery of the world economy and global trade volumes, and government stimulus measures.
To promote infrastructure development, in 2018, Thailand enacted the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Act to support EEC development of integrated infrastructure and utilities to connect land, sea, and air through high-speed rail links, ports, and airports. The Thai government is promoting the EEC industrial development projects with support from Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI). The EEC scheme covers 30 existing and new industrial zones, with expected investment of $55 billion in three eastern provinces — Chachoengsao, Chon Buri, and Rayong. The EEC’s targeted industries include next-generation cars, smart electronics, medical services, wellness tourism, agriculture and biotechnology, food, robotics, aviation, biofuels, defense, and digital technologies.