Thailand shipped US$249.8 billion worth of products around the globe in 2018. That figure represents roughly 1.4% of overall global exports estimated at $17.546 trillion on year earlier during 2017 (calculated on February 2, 2019).
From a continental perspective, about three-quarters (65.1%) of Thai exports by value are delivered to fellow Asian countries while 12.9% are sold to North American importers. Thailand ships another 11.6% worth to Europe and 5.1% to Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand.
Smaller percentages were sent to Africa (2.9%) and Latin America (2.1%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Thailand’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Thailand’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most Thai shipments by dollar value during 2018. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Thai exports.
- China: US$29.7 billion (11.9% of total Thai exports)
- United States: $27.9 billion (11.2%)
- Japan: $24.7 billion (9.9%)
- Vietnam: $12.8 billion (5.1%)
- Hong Kong: $12.4 billion (5%)
- Malaysia: $11.5 billion (4.6%)
- Australia: $10.7 billion (4.3%)
- Indonesia: $9.9 billion (4%)
- Singapore: $9.3 billion (3.7%)
- Philippines: $7.8 billion (3.1%)
- Cambodia: $7.6 billion (3%)
- India: $7.5 billion (3%)
- Netherlands: $5.2 billion (2.1%)
- Germany: $5.1 billion (2%)
- South Korea: $4.8 billion (1.9%)
About three-quarters (74.8%) of Thai exports in 2018 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Cambodia increased its purchases of Thai products at the fastest pace up 44.2% in value from 2017 to 2018. In second place was India (up 16.3%), trailed by Singapore (up 13.8%), Philippines (up 12.8%) then Indonesia (up 12.7%).
Thailand incurred an overall -$1.1 billion trade deficit for 2018, reversing $10.9 billion in black ink one year earlier.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Thailand incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- China: -US$20.5 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2018)
- Japan: -$10.7 billion
- United Arab Emirates: -$8.3 billion
- Saudi Arabia: -$5.9 billion
- Taiwan: -$4.8 billion
- Switzerland: -$4.3 billion
- South Korea: -$4.1 billion
- Thailand: -$3.3 billion
- Qatar: -$3.2 billion
- Malaysia: -$2 billion
Among Thailand’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Thai deficits with United Arab Emirates (up 65.7%), Qatar (up 41.7%) and Switzerland (up 40.6%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
The two top partners that enabled Thailand to shrink its country-specific trade deficits were China (down -17.8%) and Japan (down -2%).
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Thailand’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Thailand to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
Thailand incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries:
- United States: US$12.6 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2018)
- Hong Kong: $9.5 billion
- Vietnam: $7.1 billion
- Cambodia: $6.8 billion
- Australia: $4.7 billion
- Philippines: $4.4 billion
- Netherlands: $4.1 billion
- India: $2.7 billion
- Mexico: $2.1 billion
- South Africa: $1.9 billion
Among Thailand’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Thai surpluses with Cambodia (up 56.4%), Philippines (up 19.1%) and South Africa (up 12.2%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Thailand’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Thailand to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Thai Trading Partners
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 IMPORTERS.com listings for Thai suppliers, the following are examples of companies that ship products from Thailand to its trading partners around the globe. Shown within parenthesis are products that the Thai business provides.
- Dplus Intertrade Co,Ltd (LCD screen protectors)
- Dr.Sandals Online (hand-made sandals)
- Grand Asia Food Industry Company (canned fruits, vegetables)
- Kitthaworn Trading Co, Ltd (artificial flowers)
- LYR Premium Partnership, Ltd (printed T-shirts)
- Mae Chan Winery (wines)
- NF Trading Thailand Ltd (charcoal)
- Penta Pal Trading Co, Ltd (freeze-dried tropical fruits)
- S.T.Rubber Factory, Ltd (automotive, rubber-related)
- Somjit Trading & Services Co,Ltd (clothing manufacturer)
- Victory Gypsum Board Co, Ltd (ceiling tiles)
See also Thailand’s Top 10 Exports, Thailand’s Top 10 Imports and Thailand’s Top 10 Major Export Countries
Trade Map, International Trade Centre, www.intracen.org/marketanalysis. Accessed on February 2, 2019
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on February 2, 2019
Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 2, 2019
IMPORTERS.com The Online Market for G20 Importers, Germany Import Export Directory. Accessed on February 2, 2019