Prospects for exports are improving, with the full-year contraction not expected to exceed 1.5%, according to the Thai National Shippers Council (TNSC).
Chairman Chaichan Chareonsuk said this was based on the rebound to positive figures in August and September, and an informal survey of exporters who indicated steady orders for the final three months of the year.
The council was confident that export performance in 2023 would not contract significantly.
Data from the Ministry of Commerce showed exports increased for a second consecutive month in September, up 2.1% year-on-year to US$25.5 billion while imports fell 8.3% to $23.4 billion, for a trade surplus of $2.09 billion.
For the first nine months of the year, exports fell 3.8% to $213 billion and imports decreased 6.0% to $219 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $5.83 billion.
Mr Chaichan said the situation in the Middle East had yet to significantly impact exports. The conflict remained confined within a specific geographical area and involved only two parties.
The exchange rate, meanwhile, was in the range of 35.50-36.50 baht per dollar and remained favourable for exports, despite high volatility, he said.
Mr Chaichan said if average exports for the remaining three months stayed at $23.8 billion, it would result in a contraction of 1% in exports. However, if the monthly average dropped to $23.3 billion, it would cause a 1.5% contraction.
The monthly average was unlikely to drop to $22.8 billion, which would result in a contraction of up to 2% now that certain goods, such as automobiles and their components, and agricultural products, fared quite well.
Exports were estimated to increase by up to 7% in the final quarter, he said.
“The TNSC is maintaining the export target for this year at -1.5% [as of November]. Major risk factors include global interest rates, which remain high, impacting growth and borrowing costs for businesses; the slow recovery in the purchasing managers' index [PMI] affecting industrial output; and high raw material costs like the increased price of oil and potential war scenarios impacting transportation costs,” he said.
The outlook for the coming year was for exports to show positive but not significant growth of 0-2%.
"Exports have gradually expanded since August. However, next year's growth might be limited to around 0-2%. I think the figures may be higher than that, as great opportunities emerge in a crisis," he said.
Mr Chaichan said the PMI trend remained stable and had not dropped significantly over the last six months, signifying that businesses could adapt and survive.
Global oil prices remained relatively stable, allowing good business management. There were no signs of an export slowdown, nor issues with container availability.
"If negative factors persist, such as geopolitical conflicts, delayed economic recovery of key trading partners, increases in raw material costs, energy prices and interest rates, and the El Niño weather phenomenon, businesses should be able to adapt and swiftly find new markets," he said.