Exports up 8.8 percent in January driving economic expansion

export7A robust rise in exports of 8.8 percent year on year for the month of January helped spur Thailand’s continuing economic expansion, the Bank of Thailand said last week, as growth in overseas shipments, the main driver of the Thai economy, exceeded expectations, with government expenditures, tourism arrivals and increasing tax revenues also making significant contributions.

January was the third straight month that registered a rise in exports, underpinning optimism that Thailand will be able to meet the goal recently set by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak of a 5 percent increase in shipments for the entire year. Somkid oversees the government’s economic ministries. The performance of Thai exports in recent years has faltered from a combination of economic problems in some key overseas markets and declining competitiveness of some Thai products.

To counter declining competitiveness, the government has launched a policy called Thailand 4.0 that will transform the economy to one producing higher technology, green and innovative products over the next 20 years. The private sector strongly supports the policy and many leading companies have been increasing their investments in research and development.

The Commerce Ministry reported that exports in January totaled $17.1 billion. The positive increase was the result of recovering world trade, a gradual recovery of the global economy and higher oil and gold prices, according to a ministry spokesperson. Thai exports fared well in almost all major markets, including the U.S., Europe, Japan, ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), China and South Asia. Only Australia and the Middle East took in fewer Thai exports.

China and South Asia had the strongest growth in Thai exports with increases of 30.8 percent and 24 percent, respectively. Shipments to the U.S. were up 9.5 percent, and Europe took in 10.4 percent more Thai products.

“Higher shipments for the third straight month clearly reflect that Thai exports are on an upward trend in line with the better performance of world trade, boosted especially by the recovering economies of Thailand’s key trading partners, and higher global oil and farm commodity prices,” said Pimchanok Vonkorpon of the Ministry of Commerce’s trade policy division.

Meanwhile, the Investment Analysts Association said its members are bullish on the prospects for the Thai stock market, with more than half of the respondents to an internal poll voicing confidence that the index is on an upward trend this year, said Association Chairwoman Poranee Thongyen.

Respondents cited positive factors including confidence in the government’s policies and improvements in private consumption, and gradually rising GDP growth expected to be 3.4 percent for this year. Coupled with political stability and listed companies’ earnings improvements, those factors should bode well for the economy and the exchange.