Thailand, the second largest economy in ASEAN after Indonesia, is an upper middle-income country with an open economy, a gross domestic product (GDP) of $529 billion, and 4.1% annual growth in 2018.
Thailand is the 20th largest export destination for the United States. Two-way trade of goods in 2018 was $44.5 billion, with $31.9 billion in Thai exports to the U.S. and $12.6 billion in U.S. exports to Thailand. Among countries in Asia, Thailand ranks as the United States’ 9th largest export destination after China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, India, and Malaysia. U.S. exports to Thailand increased by 3.8%, while U.S. imports from Thailand increased by 5.8% for the same period in 2017.
An export-dependent economy, Thailand exported a total of $249.8 billion worth of goods in 2018. The United States was Thailand’s No. 2 export market (11.2%) after China (11.9%). The top ten export items were machinery including computers (17.2%), electrical equipment (14%), vehicles (12.2%), rubber (6.2%), plastics (5.8%), gems (4.8%), mineral fuels, (4.2%), meat/seafood preparations (2.6%), organic chemicals (2.5%), and cereals (2.3%).
Thailand is one of the world’s most visited countries and tourism is vital to the Thai economy. In 2018 direct receipts from tourists contributed about 12% of Thailand’s GDP, and indirect revenues could make the figure closer to 20%. Thailand recorded 38.2 million tourist arrivals in 2018 and expects to surpass 41 million tourist arrivals in 2019.
In 2018, the Thai economy grew by 4.1%, improving from 4.0% in 2017. Private consumption and total investment increased by 4.6 and 3.8 percent respectively. Export value grew by 7.7 percent while inflation averaged 1.1 percent and the current account remained in a surplus of 37.7 percent of GDP.
The Thai economy is projected to grow by 3.3% to 3.8% in 2019; a newly elected government, continuation of world economic growth, the expansion of government expenditures and the acceleration of public investment in key infrastructure projects are contributors to growth.
To promote infrastructure development, Thailand has published the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Act to support EEC development of integrated infrastructure and utilities to connect land, sea, and air through high-speed rail links, ports, and airports.
The EEC scheme covers 30 existing and new industrial zones, with expected investment of $55 billion in three eastern provinces — Chachoengsao, Chon Buri, and Rayong. The EEC’s targeted industries include next-generation cars, smart electronics, medical services, wellness tourism, agriculture and biotechnology, food, robotics, aviation, biofuels, and digital technologies. Risk factors include the economic situations of trading partners, fluctuations of money markets, and uncertainty in international economic policies and international politics.
The U.S. Commercial Service offers resources for those looking to enter the Thai market. Our Country Commercial Guide helps inform U.S. companies on doing business in Thailand and covers a range of topics from the country’s investment climate, to selling a product or service in country. To obtain a copy of the Thailand Country Commercial Guide for U.S. Companies or for more information please visit our website www.export.gov/thailand