Border trade activity down 9.7% in first 5 months

Border trade activity down 9.7% in first 5 months

Aranyaprathet in Sa Kaeo is a key border trade district between Thailand and Cambodia. (Bangkok Post photo)

Thailand’s cross-border trade fell by 9.7% year-on-year in the first five months of 2020 as the coronavirus ravaged the global economy and led neighbouring countries to close nearly all border checkpoints.

The Foreign Trade Department on Thursday said the country’s overall cross-border trade, including transit trade, totalled 524.35 billion baht from January to May, with Malaysia remaining the biggest partner by value.

Transit trade involves the passage of goods through more than one country.

Of the total figures, exports from Thailand were 305.72 billion baht, down 9% from the first five months of last year, while imports were 218.63 billion baht, down 10.7%, resulting in a trade surplus of 87.09 billion baht.

Thailand’s border trade with four neighbouring countries amounted to 309.63 billion baht, down 14.7% from the same period last year. Of the total, exports were 183.72 billion baht, down 12.8%, and imports were 125.91 billion baht, down 17.2%. Thailand maintained a trade surplus of 57.81 billion baht.

Two-way trade with Malaysia totalled 87.85 billion baht (down 32.4%), followed by trade with Laos (77.17 billion baht, down 6.6%), Myanmar (73.74 billion baht, down 11%) and Cambodia (70.87 billion baht, up 5.2%).

Transit trade, mainly with Singapore, Vietnam and southern China, fell 1.5% in the first five months to 214.71 billion baht.

Transit trade with southern China and Singapore was up, by 15.7% and 20.8% respectively. Transit trade value was 90.74 billion baht with southern China and 36.10 billion baht with Singapore.

Transit trade value with Vietnam and other countries fell by 26.7% and 16.9% to 24.69 billion and 63.18 billion baht respectively.

Keerati Rushchano, director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said cross-border and transit trade remains bearish because of the pandemic, leading Thailand to close 69 border checkpoints out of 97 total.

The hope is that the situation will improve in the second half of the year, he said, given that demand for Thai goods from nearby countries remains strong.

“Nonetheless, gauged by the performance in the first five months, the [border trade] target of 1.5 trillion baht for 2020 is unlikely to be achieved,” Mr Keerati said. “Viable figures are likely 1-1.1 trillion baht this year because of Covid-19.”