Thailand: a new frontier for Utah businesses

Dan Royal, Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development

Later this month, Utah-based companies will have an excellent opportunity to explore the Thai market as a part of the Indonesia trade mission on September 24-28. This is a chance for companies to become more familiar with Thailand, its people, and its business practices in the hopes of creating Thai business relations. The trip will include business meetings and networking opportunities, among other valuable activities. The U.S. Commercial Service will also provide Gold Key Matching Services to companies interested in engaging and evaluating potential distributors, joint-ventures and other partnerships.

A Quick Look at Thailand
Formerly known as Siam, Thailand is located in Southeast Asia, bordered by Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and the Gulf of Thailand. Unlike neighboring countries, Thailand was never colonized by European forces. It was, however, home to various kingdoms during its history.

Since World War II Thailand experienced years of military junta rule and unstable democracy. The political situation was further exacerbated by the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 which saw a massive devaluation of the Thai Baht. Today, Thailand’s population of 67 million lives under a relatively stable constitutional monarchy headed by a prime minister.

A Look into the Numbers
Even though Thailand continues to slowly rebuild its economy after the adverse effects of the financial crisis of 1997 and the global economic downturn of 2008 (current growth rate is .1%), it is still an important trade partner for the United States. Thailand was the United States’ 27th largest export market in 2011. Bilaterally, U.S. trade with Thailand totaled $36 billion.

In 2011, United States’ exports to Thailand totaled almost $10.9 billion. Since 1997, exports to Thailand have increased by 48%, from $7.4 billion to $10.9 billion. Since 1997, exports to Thailand from Utah have increased by 845%, from $75 million to $708 million. From January 2012 to June 2012, exports have already totaled $392 million, outpacing 2011’s year-to-date total of $306 million, an increase of 43.7% over last year.

Top exports from Utah to Thailand include: Gold, food products, fertilizers, beauty products and medical supplies. Thailand is also a significant purchaser of precious metals, imitation jewelry, industrial machinery and aerospace parts.

What Can We Expect in the Future? As Thailand continues to rebound, exports will increase as well. Thailand is one of the United States’ closest allies in more than just business. From the war against terrorism to the fight against international drug trafficking, the ties between the United States and Thailand continue to be strengthened and trust is built between the countries. In 2004, the United States and Thailand commenced Free Trade Agreement negotiations but suspended them in 2006 following a military-led coup. Notwithstanding, American and Thai officials continue to discuss bilateral issues such as intellectual property rights and customs issues.

For additional information on the mission, please contact Daniel Royal at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development at or by calling 801.538. 8640

Funded in part through a grant award with the U.S. Small Business Administration