Based on the average exchange rate for 2021, Thailand uses the Thai baht which appreciated by 5.7% against the US dollar since 2017 but fell by -2.2% from 2020 to 2021. Thailand’s weaker currency in 2021 compared to 2020 made Thailand’s exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
Thailand’s 5 biggest export products by value in 2021 were computers, cars, automotive parts or accessories, electronic integrated circuits or microassemblies, and trucks. In aggregate, that quintet of major exports accounted for 18.7% of overall exports sales from Thailand. That percentage suggests a relatively diversified range of exported goods.
Thailand ranks among the top countries for exports of computers and gold.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 70.7% of products exported from Thailand were bought by importers in: United States of America (15.4% of the global total), mainland China (13.7%), Japan (9.2%), Vietnam (4.6%), Malaysia (4.5%), Hong Kong (4.3%), Australia (4%), Singapore (3.3%), Indonesia (3.3%), India (3.1%), Cambodia (2.6%) and the Philippines (also 2.6%).
From a continental perspective, 62.9% of Thailand’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 17.2% was sold to importers in North America. Thailand shipped another 10.4% worth of goods to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Oceania (4.8%) led by Australia and New Zealand, Africa (2.6%) then Latin America (2.1%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Given Thailand’s population of about 69.8 million people, its total $266.7 billion in 2021 exports translates to roughly $3,800 for every resident in the East Asian country. That per-capita dollar amount outpaces the average $3,300 one year earlier in 2020.
Thailand’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Thai global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Thailand.
- Machinery including computers: US$44.7 billion (16.8% of total exports)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $40 billion (15%)
- Vehicles: $31.7 billion (11.9%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $19.7 billion (7.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $15.5 billion (5.8%)
- Gems, precious metals: $9.9 billion (3.7%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $9.6 billion (3.6%)
- Fruits, nuts: $6.2 billion (2.3%)
- Meat/seafood preparations: $6 billion (2.2%)
- Organic chemicals: $5.6 billion (2.1%)
Thailand’s top 10 exports accounted for 70.8% of the overall value of global Thai shipments.
Organic chemicals was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 57.6% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was mineral fuels including oil which was up by 57% led by higher global sales of processed petroleum oils.
Thailand’s shipments of fruits and nuts posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 46.9% year over year.
The leading decliner among Thailand’s top 10 export categories was gems and precious metals which fell -45.5%, weighed down by lower revenues from international Thai exports of gold.
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.
Major Products Generating Highest Surpluses for Thailand
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$21.5 billion (Up by 47.9% since 2020)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $16.4 billion (Up by 26.0%)
- Machinery including computers: $14.8 billion (Up by 26.3%)
- Meat/seafood preparations: $5.7 billion (Down by -8.7%)
- Fruits, nuts: $4.9 billion (Up by 61.2%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $4.7 billion (Up by 44.1%)
- Wood: $2.3 billion (Up by 33.2%)
- Cereals: $2.03 billion (Down by -18.9%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $1.97 billion (Up by 10.4%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $1.6 billion (Down by -17.4%)
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.
Major Products Causing Greatest Deficits for Thailand
Thailand incurred an overall -$1.5 billion trade deficit for 2021, reversing a $20.7 billion surplus during 2020.
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$31.4 billion (Up by 38.5% since 2020)
- Iron, steel: -$13.2 billion (Up by 58.7%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$12.9 billion (Up by 37.6%)
- Other chemical goods: -$4.2 billion (Up by 63%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$3.1 billion (Up by 62.9%)
- Copper: -$2.8 billion (Up by 71.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: -$2.68 billion (Reversing a $10 billion surplus)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$2.57 billion (Up by 34.3%)
- Oil seeds: -$2.3 billion (Up by 39%)
- Aluminum: -$2.2 billion (Up by 60.8%)
Thailand has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for the mineral fuels category. Under that category Thailand’s greatest shortfalls are for crude oil, petroleum gases and coal.
Thailand’s trade balance under the gems and precious metals categories went from a significant surplus in 2020 to a multi-billion dollar deficit during 2021.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Thailand’s competitive disadvantages in the international fossil fuel market, but also represent key opportunities for Thailand to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations in alternative energy sources.
Thailand’s Main Export Companies
Fifteen Thai corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major companies headquartered in Thailand that Forbes included.
- PTT PCL (energy)
- Siam Cement (specialized chemicals)
- PTT Global Chemical (diversified chemicals)
- Thai Beverage (beverages)
- Thai Oil (oil, gas)
- Total Access Communication (telecommunications)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are examples of smaller Thai exporters.
- Dole Thailand (pineapples, plastic boxes/cases, fruit mixtures)
- Thai Agri Foods Public (non-alcoholic beverages, nuts, fruit/vegetable juices)
- Dana Spicer Thailand (automotive parts, latex, rubber transmission belts)
- Minson Enterprises Thailand (footwear, skates, sporting equipment)
- British Millerain Thailand (textile fabrics, vulcanized rubber, coconut yarn)
Searchable List of Thailand’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Thailand during 2021. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2020.
|Rank||Thai Export Product||2021 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Computers, optical readers||$14,140,102,000||+20.9%|
|6||Processed petroleum oils||$7,752,053,000||+67.4%|
|8||Rubber tires (new)||$6,267,827,000||+19.5%|
|10||Phone devices including smartphones||$5,163,580,000||+7.2%|
|11||Miscellaneous fruits (fresh)||$4,261,793,000||+56.2%|
|17||Clothing, accessories (vulcanized rubber)||$3,083,477,000||+32.1%|
|20||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$2,657,798,000||+5.2%|
|21||Fish, caviar (preserved/prepared)||$2,603,932,000||-15.6%|
|22||Computer parts, accessories||$2,552,843,000||+19.4%|
|23||Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)||$2,492,932,000||-4.7%|
|24||Electrical converters/power units||$2,418,644,000||+27.5%|
|25||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$2,408,685,000||+22.3%|
|28||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$2,252,979,000||+4.3%|
|29||Air or vacuum pumps||$2,128,677,000||+23.5%|
|30||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$1,880,949,000||+16.4%|
|33||TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras||$1,661,057,000||+17.8%|
|36||Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)||$1,557,881,000||-2.2%|
|38||Sugar (cane or beet)||$1,509,563,000||-13.9%|
|41||Piston engine parts||$1,397,739,000||+35.3%|
|42||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$1,384,306,000||+6.7%|
|43||Other food preparations||$1,345,170,000||+1.4%|
|45||Manioc, artichokes, sweet potatoes||$1,284,264,000||+86%|
|46||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$1,262,304,000||-2.5%|
|49||Electric water heaters, hair dryers||$1,221,156,000||+22.8%|
|50||Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates||$1,109,749,000||+12.6%|
|52||Miscellaneous plastic items||$1,062,637,000||+13%|
|54||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$1,033,746,000||+16.5%|
|55||Copper waste, scrap||$1,002,270,000||+90.1%|
|57||Miscellaneous preserved fruits||$979,815,000||+7.5%|
|58||TV/radio/radar device parts||$942,312,000||+7.3%|
|59||Mixed condiments, seasonings||$930,274,000||+10.6%|
|61||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$888,537,000||+14.6%|
|62||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$867,166,000||+30.6%|
|63||Electric motors, generators||$863,616,000||+24.2%|
|65||Lignite fiberboard including wood||$845,004,000||+37.8%|
|66||Modified starches, dextrins||$843,199,000||+11.5%|
|67||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$838,776,000||+24.9%|
|68||Crustaceans, molluscs (preserved/prepared)||$822,404,000||+4%|
|69||Aluminum plates, sheets, strips||$814,991,000||+81.7%|
|70||Liquid pumps and elevators||$798,749,000||+23.5%|
|72||Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)||$781,280,000||+49.5%|
|73||Vulcanized rubber items||$774,991,000||+30.3%|
|74||Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps||$758,112,000||+81.1%|
|75||Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)||$756,222,000||+32.6%|
|79||Vinyl chloride polymers||$719,451,000||+56.5%|
|82||Precious/semi-precious stones (unstrung)||$677,956,000||+26%|
|84||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$674,341,000||+5.4%|
|85||Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)||$667,682,000||+90.8%|
|86||Unrecorded sound media||$665,297,000||+83%|
|87||Ball, roller bearings||$662,977,000||+27.4%|
|88||Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters||$655,340,000||+34.7%|
|89||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$645,013,000||+68.9%|
|91||Fruit and vegetable juices||$630,338,000||+13.1%|
|92||Copper tubes, pipes||$629,810,000||+104.6%|
|93||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$615,381,000||+4.9%|
|94||Electric ignition/start equipment||$598,587,000||+40.7%|
|95||Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$594,128,000||+36.3%|
|97||Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools||$546,139,000||-40.1%|
|100||Uncarded synthetic fibers||$538,950,000||+18.3%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$201.7 billion or about three-quarters (75.6%) by value for all products exported from Thailand during 2021.
In macroeconomic terms, Thailand’s total exported goods represent 20% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($1.331 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 20% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2021 compares to 18.2% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Thailand’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Thailand’s unemployment rate was 1.5% at October 2021, down from an average 2% for 2020 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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Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 19, 2022
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (Domestic Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 19, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 19, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 19, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 19, 2022
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on March 19, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 19, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Thailand. Accessed on March 19, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 19, 2022
Zepol’scompany summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 19, 2022