Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, Thailand uses the Thai baht which appreciated by 11.3% against the US dollar since 2016 but fell by -0.8% from 2019 to 2020. Thailand’s weaker currency in 2020 compared to 2019 made Thailand’s exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 71% of products exported from Thailand were bought by importers in: the United States (14.9% of the global total), China (12.9%), Japan (9.9%), Hong Kong (4.9%), Vietnam (4.8%), Australia (4.2%), Singapore (4.1%), Malaysia (3.8%), Indonesia (3.3%), Switzerland (3.3%), Cambodia (2.6%) and India (2.4%).
From a continental perspective, 61.6% of Thailand’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 16.6% were sold to North American importers. Thailand shipped another 12.7% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (4.9%), Africa (2.4%) then Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.6%).
Given Thailand’s population of about 69.8 million people, its total $229.2 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $3,300 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 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Thailand.
- Machinery including computers: US$37.7 billion (16.4% of total exports)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $34.1 billion (14.9%)
- Vehicles: $24.1 billion (10.5%)
- Gems, precious metals: $18 billion (7.9%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $15.5 billion (6.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $11.9 billion (5.2%)
- Meat/seafood preparations: $6.6 billion (2.9%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $6.1 billion (2.7%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $4.7 billion (2.1%)
- Fruits, nuts: $4.2 billion (1.8%)
Thailand’s top 10 exports accounted for 71% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Gems and precious metals was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 14.9% since 2019 propelled by higher international sales of gold. In second place for improving export sales was fruits and nuts which rose 10.9%. Thailand’s shipments of rubber as a material plus articles made from rubber posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 1.1%.
The leading decliner among Thailand’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil which fell -27.8% 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 earned an overall $20.4 billion trade surplus during 2020, up 289.9% from $5.2 billion in black 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$14.6 billion (Down by -20.2% since 2019)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $13.1 billion (Up by 3.7%)
- Machinery including computers: $11.7 billion (Up by 12.3%)
- Gems, precious metals: $9.9 billion (Up by 192.2%)
- Meat/seafood preparations: $6.3 billion (Down by -1.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $3.3 billion (Down by -20%)
- Fruits, nuts: $3 billion (Up by 5.8%)
- Cereals: $2.5 billion (Down by -22.3%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $1.9 billion (Down by -38.4%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $1.8 billion (Up by 1.4%)
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.
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-$22.7 billion (Down by -22.3% since 2019)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$9.4 billion (Down by -1.9%)
- Iron, steel: -$8.3 billion (Down by -22.8%)
- Other chemical goods: -$2.6 billion (Down by -8.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.924 billion (Up by 0.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$1.917 billion (Down by -24.2%)
- Fish: -$1.68 billion (Up by 14.2%)
- Oil seeds: -$1.66 billion (Up by 30.8%)
- Copper: -$1.63 billion (Down by -23.7%)
- Aluminum: -$1.4 billion (Down by -17.2%)
Thailand has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for the mineral fuels category. Under that category Thailand’s greatest shortfalls are for crude oil, petroleum gases and coal.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Thailand’s competitive disadvantages in the international fossil fuel market, but also represent key opportunities for Thailand to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations in alternative energy sources.
Thai Export Companies
Fifteen Thai corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major companies headquartered in Thailand that Forbes included.
- PTT PCL (energy)
- Siam Cement (specialized chemicals)
- PTT Global Chemical (diversified chemicals)
- Thai Beverage (beverages)
- Thai Oil (oil, gas)
- Total Access Communication (telecommunications)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are examples of smaller Thai exporters.
- Dole Thailand (pineapples, plastic boxes/cases, fruit mixtures)
- Thai Agri Foods Public (non-alcoholic beverages, nuts, fruit/vegetable juices)
- Dana Spicer Thailand (automotive parts, latex, rubber transmission belts)
- Minson Enterprises Thailand (footwear, skates, sporting equipment)
- British Millerain Thailand (textile fabrics, vulcanized rubber, coconut yarn)
Searchable List of Thailand’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Thailand during 2020. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2019.
|Rank||Thai Export Product||2020 Value (US$)||Change|
|2||Computers, optical readers||$11,692,037,000||-1.4%|
|6||Rubber tires (new)||$5,252,938,000||-6%|
|9||Phone system devices||$4,828,829,000||+18.1%|
|10||Processed petroleum oils||$4,639,457,000||-29.1%|
|14||Fish, caviar (preserved/prepared)||$3,081,212,000||+4.9%|
|16||Miscellaneous fruits (fresh)||$2,698,075,000||+19.8%|
|17||Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)||$2,614,369,000||-8%|
|19||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$2,521,277,000||+31.9%|
|21||Clothing, accessories (vulcanized rubber)||$2,344,461,000||+94.6%|
|23||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$2,160,545,000||+14.1%|
|24||Computer parts, accessories||$2,137,553,000||-10.3%|
|27||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$1,969,295,000||+18.2%|
|29||Electrical converters/power units||$1,897,861,000||+5.3%|
|30||Sugar (cane or beet)||$1,742,095,000||-41.4%|
|31||Air or vacuum pumps||$1,725,408,000||-13.2%|
|32||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$1,619,563,000||+0.3%|
|34||Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)||$1,592,560,000||+0.3%|
|35||TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras||$1,414,954,000||+6.4%|
|36||Other food preparations||$1,325,284,000||-6.6%|
|38||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$1,296,044,000||-0.2%|
|39||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$1,291,267,000||-6.8%|
|41||Armored vehicles, tanks||$1,210,524,000||+7,227%|
|47||Piston engine parts||$1,035,499,000||-24.4%|
|48||Electric water heaters, hair dryers||$995,640,000||+30.4%|
|50||Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates||$988,107,000||-3.4%|
|51||Miscellaneous plastic items||$941,674,000||-10.5%|
|56||Miscellaneous preserved fruits||$911,110,000||+1.2%|
|57||Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools||$909,667,000||-22.7%|
|58||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$887,381,000||-2.3%|
|59||TV/radio/radar device parts||$880,049,000||+9.4%|
|60||Sauces, mixed condiments/seasonings||$841,156,000||+7.2%|
|61||Crustaceans, molluscs (preserved/prepared)||$791,010,000||-3.9%|
|62||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$775,258,000||-21.8%|
|63||Modified starches, dextrins||$755,247,000||-2.2%|
|65||Electric motors, generators||$695,931,000||-8.9%|
|66||Manioc roots, Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes||$689,527,000||+28.9%|
|67||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$672,445,000||-10.7%|
|68||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$665,341,000||-5.2%|
|69||Liquid pumps and elevators||$647,478,000||-13.4%|
|71||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$639,676,000||+3.1%|
|72||Ligneous fiberboard including of wood||$613,257,000||+3.4%|
|73||Vulcanized rubber items||$596,130,000||-16%|
|75||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$587,287,000||-40.2%|
|78||Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)||$572,107,000||-3.6%|
|79||Fruit and vegetable juices||$556,122,000||-2.7%|
|82||Precious/semi-precious stones (unstrung)||$541,944,000||-62.4%|
|83||Copper waste, scrap||$528,258,000||+31.5%|
|84||Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)||$524,077,000||-17.5%|
|85||Ball, roller bearings||$520,969,000||-11.8%|
|90||Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters||$487,897,000||-19.7%|
|91||Vinyl chloride polymers||$461,118,000||-1.4%|
|92||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$459,898,000||-0.4%|
|93||Unprocessed synthetic staple fibers||$456,078,000||-13.5%|
|94||Aluminum plates, sheets, strips||$448,512,000||+10.1%|
|96||Uncoated paper for writing/printing||$439,767,000||-21.7%|
|98||Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$436,569,000||-20%|
|99||Chemical industry products/residuals||$434,405,000||+4.3%|
|100||Electric ignition/start equipment||$426,732,000||-5.8%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$175.6 billion or over three-quarters (76.6%) by value for all products exported from Thailand during 2020.
In macroeconomic terms, Thailand’s total exported goods represent 18.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($1.261 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 18.2% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2020 compares to 17.7% for 2019. 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 1.5% at December 2020, up from an average 1.2% same as one year earlier 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
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on March 3, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 3, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 3, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 3, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 3, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 3, 2021
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on March 3, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on March 3, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Thailand. Accessed on March 3, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on March 3, 2021
Zepol’scompany summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 3, 2021