Last updated in February 2018

Political relations

Thailand is not only one of Germany’s most important political partners in South-East Asia, but also a key player in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Germany and Thailand enjoy substantive political relations, reflected in cooperation on many political issues and in multilateral organisations such as the United Nations, as well as in the presence of five German political foundations in the country.

Diplomatic relations between the member states of the German Customs Union and the Kingdom of Siam were established in 1862 with the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, Trade and Shipping by Count Friedrich zu Eulenburg and King Mongkut. In the following decades, German merchants and specialists wielded great influence in Thailand’s economic life and were instrumental in developing a modern infrastructure in the country, which included building a telegraph network and expanding the port facilities and railways.

The first European trip by a Siamese king was that by King Chulalongkorn in 1897. The trip also took him to Germany, where he received an enthusiastic welcome. Relations were suspended during the Second World War, but were relaunched in 1954.

In 2012, Germany and Thailand celebrated the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The two countries used this anniversary year to intensify bilateral relations at all levels. They also paid tribute to the occasion by stepping up the number of political visits, which included a visit to Germany by the Thai Prime Minister and visits to Thailand by several Federal Ministers.

On 22 May 2014, the military took power in Thailand through a coup d'état. Since then, the member states of the European Union have been pressing Thailand’s military leaders to guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms, return to a democratic constitution and hold free and inclusive elections.

Economic relations

Internal political wrangling and the difficult global economic situation have hampered Thailand’s economic development in the past years. Since 2016, however, a clear upward trend has been noticeable. As the country’s GDP already grew between three and four percent in 2016 and 2017, Thai companies and the Thai Government are very optimistic about 2018. The tourism sector continues to be a driving force in the Thai economy but major public infrastructure projects have also already provided some growth momentum. The country’s struggling export sector is recovering quickly and grew by 8.6 percent in 2017.
In 2017, German companies exported goods worth approximately 4.69 billion euros to Thailand and imported goods worth approximately 5.95 billion euros from the country. This put the total volume of bilateral trade in 2017 at approximately 10.64 billion euros, compared with 9.77 billion euros in 2016.

In 2017, Germany remained Thailand’s most important trading partner in the European Union by far. According to Thai trade statistics, Germany ranked 13th overall in 2017 in terms of both exports and imports. Germany’s main exports to Thailand were machinery and building components, chemicals, electrical and electronic goods as well as motor vehicles and vehicle parts. Its main imports from Thailand were jewellery and precious stones, data processing equipment and parts, integrated electronic circuits, textiles and agricultural produce.

German companies are regular exhibitors at all Thailand’s major trade fairs, and Thai firms are equally regular visitors to trade fairs in Germany, especially in the food, medical technology, mechanical engineering, communication and information technology and tourism sectors. In 2017, German firms took part in 16 trade fairs in Thailand with official support being provided for nine of these fairs (eight with joint German stands, and in one case, participation was made possible by support from the Free State of Bavaria).

Development cooperation

The Federal Republic of Germany has been engaged in development cooperation with the Kingdom of Thailand since 1959, providing a total of more than one billion euros. In the initial decades of this cooperation, the focus was on rural and agricultural development and vocational training. Thailand underwent a swift and successful transformation to become a newly industrialised country and is now a key player in South-East Asia. For this reason, official development cooperation was terminated at the end of 2011.

Nevertheless, as part of technical cooperation, bilateral as well as regional and international projects are being implemented from Bangkok with funding from the German Government. This cooperation currently focuses on the following areas:

  • climate protection and energy
  • sustainable consumption and production
  • dual system of vocational training
  • regional integration in South-East Asia
  • trilateral cooperation (joint development assistance to third countries).

Climate and environmental policy

Thailand does not operate any nuclear power plants and is, like Germany, largely dependent on energy imports (mainly from Malaysia and Myanmar as well as from the Middle East). To reduce this dependence, Thailand is making substantial efforts to meet more of its growing energy needs by developing renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency.
For this reason, climate, energy and environmental policy and a general trend towards a sustainable economy have been important issues in Thailand for a number of years now, irrespective of the political changes in the country. There are numerous government initiatives aimed at providing information on environmental issues and promoting “green” investment.

As part of the Paris Climate Agreement, Thailand has committed – through its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – to meeting relatively ambitious targets. It aims to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 25 percent below the business-as-usual level by 2030. There is close coordination on environmental and climate issues with Germany’s Federal Environment Ministry as part of the International Climate Initiative (ICI).

Culture and education

The Goethe-Institut in particular is breathing life into the cultural agreement signed by the two countries back in 1984. It is highly popular in Thailand thanks to both its attractive cultural programmes and its work to promote the German language.
Two cultural preservation projects funded by the Federal Foreign Office are attracting considerable attention in Thailand: the preservation of the Wat Ratchaburana temple in the historic city of Ayutthaya (UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List) and the digitisation of historical palm leaf manuscripts in the north of the country.
In education, Germany and Thailand cooperate on a wide range of projects at the primary level that introduce children and young people to science. The Goethe-Institut is also very active in this area.
Overall, there are now almost 200 partnerships between German and Thai higher education institutions. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which runs a student advice centre in Thailand and has five lectors working in the country, intensively supports academic exchange. The Robert Bosch Stiftung also has a lector working in Thailand.

This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.


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