Thailand: Merchandise exports increase at a slower pace in January
Merchandise exports rose 0.3% over the same month last year in January, notably lower than December’s 4.7% year-on-year increase. Meanwhile, merchandise imports dived 5.2% on an annual basis in January (December: +3.6% yoy).
As a result, the merchandise trade balance deteriorated from the previous month, recording a USD 0.2 billion deficit in January (December 2021: USD 1.0 billion surplus; January 2020: USD 1.4 billion deficit). Lastly, the trend pointed up, with the 12-month trailing merchandise trade balance recording a USD 25.6 billion surplus in January, compared to the USD 24.5 billion surplus in December.
Looking ahead, activity is set to recover robustly, with exports likely to be boosted by improving foreign demand and an improvement in consumer spending driving higher demand for imports. However, the future trajectory of the pandemic following the surge in Covid-19 cases in early February, and the uncertain recovery of the all-important tourism industry cloud the outlook somewhat.
Regarding the outlook for the external sector, Sian Fenner, lead Asia economist at Oxford Economics, commented:
“We expect trade to be bumpy in the short term as a global chip shortage weighs on motor vehicle production, but we still expect exports to trend higher this year as the recovery in global trade broadens. The introduction of special tourism visas allowed positive international visitor arrivals in Q4, but numbers were still less than 0.1% of those in 2019. We expect tourism to trend slowly higher, but we don’t expect it to return to pre-coronavirus levels until 2024.”