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Vietnam returns to quarterly deficit as export growth hits two-year low

Tuesday, April 07, 2015, 17:18 GMT+7
Vietnam returns to quarterly deficit as export growth hits two-year low
A man unloads fruits imported from China at a wholesale market in Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam’s exports in the first quarter of this year quickened at the slowest pace since 2013, while the country returned to a trade deficit after a US$1 billion surplus a year earlier, the Ministry of Industry and Trade said in its latest report.

Shipments generated $35.67 billion for Vietnam in the January-March period, up 6.9 percent from the same period last year, according to the report.

The growth is far lower than the 14.1 percent rise recorded in the first quarter of last year, and the 17.6 percent in Q1/2013, the ministry noted.

The foreign-invested sector posted $24.01 billion in export revenue, a 16.2 percent increase year on year, whereas the domestic sector suffered a 5.1 percent decline with a $10.6 billion turnover.

Vietnamese exporters saw a 1.1 percent drop from the Southeast Asian market but they enjoyed a 12.2 percent growth rate from the EU.

The Latin American and Caribbean markets posted the strongest growth, 31 percent, while Vietnam’s exports to the U.S. expanded 13.9 percent from a year earlier.

Vietnam imported $37.5 billion worth of goods in the first quarter, a 16.3 percent year-on-year increase, according to the report.

The foreign sector accounted for $23.1 billion of the imports, up 24.1 percent from the same period last year, whereas imports of the domestic sector also jumped 5.7 percent to $14.4 billion.

The Southeast Asian country thus incurred a $1.8 billion trade deficit in the first quarter, compared to the $1 billion surplus it raked in during the January-March period in 2014.

Vietnam’s trade deficit with China in the first three months of this year topped $8.1 billion, a massive 58.5 percent increase.

Foreign-invested firms still outplayed domestic businesses when it comes to export turnover, making up 70 percent of the total in the three months.

“The foreign-invested businesses, with their financial muscle, experience, and existing [export] markets, continue playing an important role in Vietnam’s export growth,” the Ministry of Industry and Trade said in its report.

The ministry added the poor export turnover of the domestic sector was mainly driven by the slumping shipments of fuel and minerals, and seafood and agro-forestry products.

Seafood and agro-forestry exports earned $4.25 billion in the first quarter, down 15.8 percent from a year earlier, whereas fuel and minerals fell 37.2 percent to only $1.35 billion.

“Exports of such staples as rice, pepper, and coffee to some markets are reaching the limit and could hardly grow further,” Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh commented.

“These exports also have to compete with rivals from Thailand and the Philippines.”

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