Thailand : Trade Balance, Exports and Imports (Jan-Mar 2021)

For trade figures for the whole of 2020 go here :

Trade is very important and a major component contributing to the GDP of Thailand. The first half of 2021 saw a resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. This after a period of many months, when Thailand appeared to have been spared of the worst effect of the pandemic. So hopes of recovery of the Thai economy were high for a while. Even the tourist sector was expecting improvement. So we will have to wait and see what the rest of 2021 brings. Trade data during the first quarter are encouraging. Hopefully improving trade figures will persist during the rest of the year.

For the first three months of 2021, changes in trade were modest, though March saw most improvement in exports(not figured below). Total trade value increased by 5.7 % to 127.781 billion U.S. Dollar, when compared to the first quarter of 2020. Export value increased by 2.3 % to 64.148 billion U.S. Dollar, while import value increased more by 9.4 % to 63.632 billion U.S. Dollar.

Trade was very well balanced, just positive by 516 million U.S. Dollar, compared to a positive balance during the first three months of 2020 of 4.544 billion U.S. Dollar.

There is a simple and at first sight strange explanation for the modest decrease in the positive trade balance in 2021. Value of exports to Switzerland declined from 2,053 million U.S Dollar in 2020 to just 179 million in 2021. Value of imports from Switzerland increased from 520 million U.S. Dollar in the first three months of 2020 to 2,436 million U.S. Dollar in the first quarter of 2021. The reason : in 2020 Thai people sold gold in one of the many gold shops around Thailand. This gold was then exported to Switzerland (at least most of it, we reckon). In early 2021, we saw the opposite. Thai people bought gold, that therefore had to be imported mostly from Switzerland. This is one of the 'strange' components of Thai exprts and imports, we discovered just the last few years.

Exports, Imports, Trade Balance, and Total Trade of Thailand. For the Januari to March period of 2021, compared to the same period of 2020. In million U.S. Dollars.

 

When looking at trading between Thailand and its major partners, there are some interesting observation (see figure below). Exports to ASEAN countries decreased by 5.5 %, while imports remained stable, resulting in a lower positive trade balance with ASEAN.

The positive trade balance with the U.S.A. widened further, from 2,839 billion U.S. Dollar in the first quarter of 2020 to 6,017 billion U.S. Dollar in the first quarter of 2021. This was mostly due to decreased imports from the U.S.A. Luckily Thailand escaped trade sanction during the previous American administration.

The negative trade balance with China widenen further, mainly because of more imports from the country, while Thai exports increased modestly.

The trade balance with Europe was negative for the first time in a long while, for reasons we explained above (gold trade). With Japan we saw a widening of the negative trade balance, mostly because of more imports from the country.

Overall, the picture of Thai trade is the same as in previouse years. There is a positive trade balance with ASEAN countries and U.S.A. There is a negative trade balance with China and Japan, while trade with Europe is more evenly balanced.


Exports to and Imports from Thailand's major trading partners. Comparing first three Quarters of 2021 with same period of 2020.

 

Export value increased modestly by 2.3 % in the first quarter of 2021 (compared to 2020). Export categories as shown below, remain essentially the same as in previous periods.

Most striking differences, when comparing with 2020 :

Car and car parts exports increased by more than 1.5 billion U.S. Dollar, so the automobile sector has recovered a bit from poor results in 2020. Rubber products and raw rubber export value has increased a lot, because of a demand for rubber gloves and other rubber medical equipment due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Value of exported chemical products (as wel as ethylene and propylene) increased more than average. Tapioca did also do well at the beginning of 2021.

As noted before, gold exports decreased a lot in the first few months of 2021.

Value of exported products from Thailand, first 9 months of 2020, compared to same period of 2019.

 

 

Percentual Change in Export Value for Thai Exports for different categories. Comparison between first 3 months of 2020 and 2021.

 

 

Resources : Data as provided on the website of the Ministry of Commerce