In March 1992 South Africa and Thailand agreed on consular relations. This is surprisingly late for countries that are on opposite sides of the Indian Ocean. Since consular relations were established between the two countries there has been a warm relationship. There have been several diplomatic delegations between the South Africa and Thailand. The South African ambassador has even met his HM King Rama IX.
In June 2009 there was a Thai Exhibition at Sandton Convention when hundreds of Thai and South African people from the business communities had a chance to meet face-to-face and discuss ways to promote trade between the two countries. Areas such as food, building and construction materials, plastics and rubber, food and beverages, textiles, clothing, gems, furniture and décor, kitchenware and ceramics were seen as viable areas for trade for mutual benefit between South Africa and Thailand.
In 2011 plans were underway to build a Thai Trade Distribution Center (TTDC) in Johannesburg to facilitate the growing interest for Thai products in South Africa.
South Africa is commonly viewed as ‘the Gateway to Africa’ by Thailand. It is a country with good ports and a good route to progress farther inland throughout the Southern African area.
There is also potential for both countries to benefit from tourism. There are several carriers operating between Cape Town and Bangkok including Cathay Pacific, Emirates, South African Airways, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airways. Popular beaches such as Thong Nai Pan in Koh Phangan and safari tours in Kruger National Park could see future numbers boosted by the association between the countries.
The only concern is that Thai goods seem to be arriving in South Africa in greater amounts than South African goods are getting on the shelves in Thailand. Naturally, South African diamonds are doing well in Thailand but not so with crafts, ceramics, ITC and other areas. In 2008, Thailand and South Africa had a trade value of $2,297.52 million. Thai exports totaled $1,587.98 million and imports $709.53 million. Thus, Thailand had a balance of trade surplus equivalent to $878.45 million. This needs to be addressed.