Border economies expected to retain high volumes
Thailand's border trade remains on course for healthy growth after rising 6.8% year-on-year in the first half of the year amid higher demand for Thai goods.
According to Wanchai Varavithya, deputy director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, overall border trade, including transit trade, amounted to 679 billion baht in the first half.
Transit trade comprises businesses connected with the passage of goods through a country to their destination.
In the first half, border exports fetched 385 billion baht, down 0.8%, with border imports coming in at 293 billion baht, up 18.7%, yielding a trade surplus of 92 billion baht.
Malaysia was the biggest partner for border trade, accounting for 50% of the total, followed by Laos (19%), Myanmar (18%) and Cambodia (13%).
Thailand's border trade with all four neighbours rose for the period, up 0.9% at 278 billion baht with Malaysia, up 6.3% at 107 billion baht with Laos, up 8.6% at 97.26 billion baht with Myanmar and up 10.3% at 70.36 billion baht with Cambodia.
The department reported that transit trade with Singapore, Vietnam and southern China also rose, with values totalling 124.9 billion baht, up 19% in the first six months of the year.
Transit trade to southern China fetched the highest value, worth 42.65 billion baht, up 23.3% in the first six months this year, followed by that with Vietnam, worth 41.65 billion, a gain of 17.8%, and with Singapore, worth 40.60 billion, up 16%.
"Thailand's border trade is flourishing, thanks to the government's continuous promotion activities and growing demand for Thai products among neighbouring countries," Mr Wanchai said. "The department still believes that the overall border trade, including transit trade, will maintain growth momentum in the second half of the year thanks to strong demand for Thai products and the growing economies of the four neighbouring countries."
Mr Wanchai said the department has a continuing plan to stimulate border trade, including the Young Entrepreneur Network Development Programme (YEN-D).
Launched in 2015 to encourage Thai entrepreneurs to invest in neighbouring countries, the YEN-D programme features familiarisation trips and special training courses for young business people in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand to help them better understand each other's cultures and regulations.
To be selected, Thai entrepreneurs have to be under 45 and come from families that have businesses. Governments in other participating countries have similar criteria.
The department is upbeat that the total value of border trade, including transit trade, will grow 15% this year to 1.5 trillion baht from 1.32 trillion in 2017, said Mr Wanchai.
But Mr Wanchai said certain challenges exist, particularly from Myanmar's currency, the kyat, and Malaysia's new trade policies.
He said the escalating trade row between US and China is expected to have little impact on Thailand's border trade. Instead, the dispute will drive neighbouring countries to rely more on products within the region.