Thailand - Country Commercial Guide
Market Overview

Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, which countries are dominant in the market, and other issues that affect trade.

Last published date: 2021-02-18

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 $544 billion, and a 3.1% annual growth in 2019.

Thailand is the 20th largest export destination for the United States.  Two-way trade of goods in 2019 was $46.77 billion, with $33.46 billion in Thai exports to the U.S. and $13.31 billion in U.S. exports to Thailand.  

An export-dependent economy, Thailand exported a total of $245.3 billion worth of goods in 2019.  The United States was Thailand’s No. 1 export market (12.8%), followed by China (11.8%).  The top ten export items were machinery including computers: $40.2 billion (16.4% of total exports), electrical machinery, equipment: $33.9 billion (13.8%), vehicles: $28.9 billion (11.8%), gems, precious metals: $15.7 billion (6.4%), rubber, rubber articles: $15.3 billion (6.3%), plastics, plastic articles: $13.3 billion (5.4%), mineral fuels including oil: $8.5 billion (3.5%), meat/seafood preparations: $6.7 billion (2.7%), optical, technical, medical apparatus: $5.4 billion (2.2%), and organic chemicals: $4.6 billion (1.9%).

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, was the top international destination for travelers, according to Mastercard’s 2019 Global Destination Cities Index, welcoming around 22.7 million international visitors.  In 2019, the Thai economy grew by 2.4%, declining from 4.2% in 2018.  Private consumption and total investment increased by 4.5 and 2.1 percent, respectively.  Exports declined by 3.2 percent while inflation averaged 0.7 percent, and the current account remained in a surplus of 7.0 percent of GDP.

According to Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), the Thai economy is projected to show a contraction of five or six percent in 2020 due to the severe downturn of global economy and trade, the decline in number and revenue from foreign tourists, the effects of the pandemic outbreak in Thailand, and drought conditions. In all, the export values of goods, private consumption expenditures, and total investment will decline by 8.0 percent, 1.7 percent, and 2.1 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, inflation is expected to be in the range of -1.5 to -0.5 percent, and the current account is expected to register a surplus of 4.9 percent of GDP.

To promote infrastructure development, Thailand adopted the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Act to support the EEC development of integrated infrastructure and utilities to connect land, sea, and air through high-speed rail links, ports, and airports.  The EEC plan covers 30 existing and new industrial zones, with an 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, and digital technologies.  Risk factors include the economic situations of trading partners, fluctuations of money markets, and uncertainty in international economic policies and international politics.