World Economy

First Thai Trade Surplus in 5 Years

First Thai Trade Surplus in 5 YearsFirst Thai Trade Surplus in 5 Years

Thailand ended 2015 with trade surplus for the first time in five years despite continued export and import contraction.

The commerce ministry said Tuesday that the country recorded a trade surplus of $1.48 billion in December, compared with $299 million in November. For the whole of 2015, Thailand’s trade surplus stood at $11.72 billion–its first surplus since 2010, MarketWatch reported.

Thai exports contracted 8.73% from a year earlier in December to $17.1 billion, accelerating from a 7.24% year-over-year drop in the preceding month.

In 2015, Thailand’s overseas shipment value fell 5.78% from last year–slightly higher than the ministry’s latest projection of a 5.5% contraction.

The ministry attributed Thailand’s third consecutive year of export contraction to a slow global economic recovery and falling oil and agricultural product prices, which have put pressure on exports of the country.

The value of Thai farm product exports dropped 7.4% in 2015, led by a plunge in rubber, rice and frozen and processed seafood shipments that contracted 16.0%, 15.2% and 14.5%, respectively.

The country’s industrial goods exports also recorded a 4.0% fall despite a 4.3% rise in automotive exports, which accounted for 14.6% of last year’s total exports, according to the ministry’s report.

Moody’s Analytics said the country’s surplus “belies weakness in Thailand’s international trade” in which exports will likely continue to be weak on the back of falling Chinese demand and sluggish global economic conditions.

In terms of imports, the country registered a 9.23% year-over-year decline to $15.61 billion in December, easing marginally from a 9.53% fall in November. Thailand’s 2015 imports contracted 11.02%–the highest since 2009, according to Somkiat Triratpan, director of the ministry’s trade and strategy bureau.

The commerce ministry said in a statement it expects Thai exports to rebound in 2016 when the growth rate is forecast at 5.0%.