Located in the Southeast Asian Indochinese peninsula, the Kingdom of Thailand shipped US$245.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 16.4% gain since 2015 but a -1.8% decline from 2018 to 2019.
Thailand’s exported goods totaled $170.8 billion during the first 9 months of 2020. Assuming an annualized $227.7 billion in exports for all 2020, Thailand is on track for an estimated -7.2% drop in value for its shipments from 2019 to 2020.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 68.6% of products exported from Thailand were bought by importers in: United States (12.8% of the global total), China (11.8%), Japan (10%), Vietnam (4.9%), Hong Kong (4.8%), Malaysia (4.2%), Australia (4.1%), Indonesia (3.7%), Singapore (3.6%), India (3%), Cambodia (2.9%) and Philippines (2.8%).
From a continental perspective, approaching two-thirds (63.2%) of Thai exports by value in 2019 were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 14.6% were sold to importers in North America. Thailand shipped another 12.4% worth to Europe and 5% to Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand. Smaller percentages arrived in Africa (2.8%) and Latin America (1.9%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Given Thailand’s population of about 67.9 million people, its total $245.3 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $3,600 for every resident in the East Asian country.
Thailand’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Thai global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Thailand.
- Machinery including computers: US$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%)
- Organic chemicals: $4.6 billion (1.9%)
Thailand’s top 10 exports accounted for almost three-quarters (70.3%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Gems and precious metals represents the top grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 31.5% since 2018 and propelled largely by stronger global sales of Thailand’s gold. The only other top category posting improved export revenues was meat or seafood preparations thanks to its 1.4% increase.
The leading decliner among Thailand’s top 10 export categories was organic chemicals which dropped -24.9% in value year over year.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Thailand’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.
Thailand incurred an overall $5.4 billion trade surplus during 2019, reversing -$1.1 billion in red ink one year earlier.
The following types of Thai product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Vehicles: US$18.2 billion (Down by -9.9% since 2018)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $12.6 billion (Down by -1.1%)
- Machinery including computers: $10.4 billion (Down by -22%)
- Meat/seafood preparations: $6.3 billion (Up by 1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $4.1 billion (Down by -16%)
- Gems, precious metals: $3.4 billion (Reversing a -$4 billion deficit)
- Cereals: $3.2 billion (Down by -34.8%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $3.1 billion (Up by 18%)
- Fruits, nuts: $2.8 billion (Up by 51.3%)
- Wood: $1.8 billion (Down by -9.7%)
Thailand has highly positive net exports in the international trade of automobiles with cars and trucks creating larger surpluses than auto parts and motorcycles. These cashflows indicate Thailand’s strong competitive advantages under the vehicles product category.
Below are exports from Thailand that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Thailand’s goods trail Thai importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$29.1 billion (Down by -9.4% since 2018)
- Iron, steel: -$10.8 billion (Down by -2.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$9.5 billion (Down by -10.3%)
- Other chemical goods: -$2.8 billion (Down by -8.7%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$2.5 billion (Down by -9.1%)
- Copper: -$2.1 billion (Down by -7.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.9 billion (Down by -5.1%)
- Aluminum: -$1.7 billion (Down by -18.3%)
- Fertilizers: -$1.5 billion (Up by 0.8%)
- Fish: -$1.5 billion (Down by -6.4%)
Thailand has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for the mineral fuels category. Under that category Thailand’s greatest shortfalls are for crude oil, petroleum gases and coal.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Thailand’s competitive disadvantages in the international fossil fuel market, but also represent key opportunities for Thailand to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations in alternative energy sources.
Thai Export Companies
Fifteen Thai corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major companies headquartered in Thailand that Forbes included.
- PTT PCL (energy)
- Siam Cement (specialized chemicals)
- PTT Global Chemical (diversified chemicals)
- Thai Beverage (beverages)
- Thai Oil (oil, gas)
- Total Access Communication (telecommunications)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are examples of smaller Thai exporters.
- Dole Thailand (pineapples, plastic boxes/cases, fruit mixtures)
- Thai Agri Foods Public (non-alcoholic beverages, nuts, fruit/vegetable juices)
- Dana Spicer Thailand (automotive parts, latex, rubber transmission belts)
- Minson Enterprises Thailand (footwear, skates, sporting equipment)
- British Millerain Thailand (textile fabrics, vulcanized rubber, coconut yarn)
Searchable List of Thailand’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Thailand during 2019. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2018.
|Rank||Thai Export Product||2019 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Computers, optical readers||$11,871,742,000||-6.8%|
|5||Electronic integrated circuits, parts||$7,589,058,000||-8.2%|
|7||Processed petroleum oils||$6,537,410,000||-20.1%|
|8||Rubber tires (new)||$5,585,858,000||+14%|
|12||Phone system devices||$4,089,972,000||-8.1%|
|16||Sugar (cane or beet)||$2,979,469,000||+14.8%|
|17||Fish, caviar (preserved/prepared)||$2,935,444,000||-0.6%|
|18||Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)||$2,841,378,000||+6.9%|
|19||Computer parts, accessories||$2,382,376,000||-11.6%|
|20||Miscellaneous fruits (fresh)||$2,242,098,000||+42.2%|
|23||Air or vacuum pumps||$1,984,716,000||-7.6%|
|25||Bombs, grenades, ammunition||$1,919,818,000||+26,653%|
|26||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$1,913,502,000||+6.5%|
|27||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$1,896,739,000||+8.2%|
|29||Electrical converters/power units||$1,799,776,000||-2.5%|
|31||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$1,666,338,000||+5.1%|
|32||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$1,615,459,000||-5%|
|33||Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)||$1,586,712,000||+9.5%|
|37||Precious/semi-precious stones (unstrung)||$1,440,914,000||+17.1%|
|38||Other food preparations||$1,419,361,000||+11.4%|
|39||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$1,384,959,000||-8.5%|
|41||Piston engine parts||$1,367,961,000||-9.6%|
|42||TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras||$1,333,832,000||-1.4%|
|44||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$1,298,938,000||+1.3%|
|50||Clothing, accessories (vulcanized rubber)||$1,204,571,000||+1.8%|
|51||Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools||$1,182,423,000||+4.8%|
|52||Miscellaneous plastic items||$1,051,566,000||-9.3%|
|53||Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates||$1,021,915,000||-4.5%|
|54||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$992,988,000||-5.7%|
|55||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$979,971,000||+70%|
|57||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$907,862,000||-3.7%|
|58||Miscellaneous preserved fruits||$900,672,000||+0.8%|
|59||Crustaceans, molluscs (preserved/prepared)||$824,013,000||-8.6%|
|62||TV/radio/radar device parts||$804,930,000||+7.3%|
|63||Sauces, mixed condiments/seasonings||$784,791,000||+6.9%|
|65||Precious metal waste, scrap||$773,352,000||+377.8%|
|66||Modified starches, dextrins||$771,479,000||+1.3%|
|67||Electric motors, generators||$763,554,000||-10.4%|
|68||Electric water heaters, hair dryers||$763,305,000||-8.8%|
|69||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$753,300,000||-2.2%|
|70||Liquid pumps and elevators||$747,500,000||+2.4%|
|72||Cruise/cargo ships, barges||$723,346,000||+9643.3%|
|73||Vulcanized rubber items||$708,904,000||-8.9%|
|74||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$702,230,000||+10.4%|
|78||Wrist/pocket watches (no precious metal case)||$669,249,000||+124.9%|
|80||Light vessels, fire boats, floating docks||$641,883,000||-43.9%|
|81||Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)||$638,549,000||-30.1%|
|82||Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)||$635,381,000||-29.4%|
|85||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$620,736,000||+3%|
|86||Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters||$607,721,000||+3.3%|
|87||Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)||$593,531,000||-6.3%|
|88||Ligneous fiberboard including of wood||$592,948,000||-1.4%|
|89||Ball, roller bearings||$590,666,000||-6.2%|
|91||Fruit and vegetable juices||$570,404,000||-3.2%|
|92||Uncoated paper for writing/printing||$561,545,000||+4.9%|
|94||Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$545,271,000||-11.2%|
|96||Manioc roots, Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes||$529,367,000||-41%|
|97||Lenses, prisms, mirrors||$526,185,000||-4.3%|
|98||Unprocessed synthetic staple fibres for spinning||$526,042,000||-11.6%|
|99||Solid-state storage devices, smart cards||$485,913,000||+21.5%|
|100||Other animal leather||$475,438,000||+5.8%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$186.7 billion or just over three-quarters (76.1%) by value for all products exported from Thailand during 2019.
In macroeconomic terms, Thailand’s total exported goods represent 17.7% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($1.383 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 17.7% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2019 compares to 18.9% for 2018. This seems to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Thailand’s total economic performance, albeit based on a very short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Thailand’s unemployment rate was 1.9% at August 2020, up from an average 1.2% for 2019 according to the International Monetary Fund.
See also Thailand’s Top 10 Imports, Thailand’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, Thailand’s Top Trading Partners and Top Asian Export Countries
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