Bilateral relations

Thailand is Australia’s tenth largest trading partner, making up 2.5% of Australia’s total trade in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted bilateral trade in 2020. Thailand remains an important trading partner. More than 3,000 Australian businesses export to Thailand and around 200 have an on the ground presence.

Exports of goods and services amounted to $5.7 billion in 2019, consisting mostly of natural gas, crude petroleum, coal, copper and aluminium. Looking ahead, Australian agriculture and consumer-oriented exporters could benefit from the strong growth in Thailand’s e-commerce market and fast-growing retail food sector. For instance, Thai demand for premium Australian food products across all major categories including gourmet and artisan foods, healthy and lifestyle foods is on the rise. Thailand’s plans to develop railways, roads and port infrastructure also offers opportunities for Australian exporters of energy, transport, telecommunications and mining services and equipment.

On the imports side, Australia purchased $17.4 billion worth of goods and services from Thailand in 2019, dominated by passenger motor vehicles, tourism, heating and cooling equipment, household equipment and seafood.

Services contributed $1.2 billion to total export receipts in 2019, supported by rising Thai demand for Australian education and tourism. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated international travel restrictions disproportionately hurt services trade in 2020. Ongoing international travel restrictions points to another challenging year for services exports in 2021.

Thailand remains a major source of international students for Australia and there are more than 200 university partnerships between respective institutions. Australia received 26,000 Thai student enrolments in 2019 (3% of total). Beyond the pandemic, Thailand’s plan to raise education outcomes and upskill their labour force opens up strong opportunities for Australian education, training, upskilling and reskilling programs. An estimated 24 million workers are expected to enter the Thai workforce over the next 15 years.

The number of Thai tourists visiting Australia had been rising strongly prior to the pandemic, in part supported by the steady appreciation of the Thai baht against the Australian dollar; tourist arrivals exceeded 100,000 in 2019.

On investment, Thailand is a small investor in Australia, owning a portfolio of $8.6 billion in 2019 (0.2% of the total foreign investment stock). Notwithstanding this, Thai investments in Australia have also been growing at a steady rate over the past decade across many areas, including energy and resources, tourism infrastructure and agribusiness.

Australian investment in Thailand is similarly small at $4.8 billion in 2019 (0.2% of the total). Australian investments into Thailand are largely in the automotive, logistics, advanced manufacturing, technology and services industries.