Vietnam’s Import-Export:
Four Salient Points

Vietnamese goods are now present in most countries around the world

The total export turnover of Vietnam has been witnessing rapid growth in recent years. The export turnover of goods increased from US$5.4 billion in 1990 to over US$5.4 billion in 1995, US$14.5 billion in 2000 and US$32.5 billion in 2005. The figure was US$39.8 billion in 2006, and it is likely to reach US$47.5 billion in 2007.

The ratio of export turnover to GDP also increased rapidly from 30.8% in 1990 to 46.5% in 2000, 61.3% in 2005, to 65% in 2006 and 67% in 2007, high levels in the region and in the world (4th among ASEAN countries, 5th in Asia and 8th in region).

Export turnover per capita rose from US$36.4 in 1990 to US$75 in 1995, US$186.8 in 2000, and US$391 in 2005. The figure was US$473.2 in 2006 and is likely to reach US$557 in 2007.

The acceleration of Vietnam’s exports can be explained by many factors, including the considerable expansion of export markets. There are four salient points in Vietnam’s export markets as follows.

the number of countries and territories that import Vietnamese goods has increased rapidly in the last ten years.  Before the doi moi (renovation process), Vietnam mainly had trade relations with the countries in the communist bloc. Since doi moi and the Foreign Investment Law, Vietnam’s export markets have been expanded.
However, Vietnam’s exports only grew considerably after the US lifted its embargo against Vietnam in 1995, and Vietnam joined ASEAN; they further benefited from the Vietnam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement (signed in 2000) and Vietnam’s WTO membership (early 2007).

Second, among 200 countries and territories that import goods from Vietnam, 28 countries have annual import turnover of over $100mil, and 16 countries over $500mil. Seven countries import more than $1bil worth of products from Vietnam. The US leads the list, followed by Japan, China, Australia, Singapore, Germany, Malaysia and the UK.  Experts have advised Vietnamese exporters not to ‘put all eggs into one basket’ and pay attention to expanding export markets instead of relying on a few markets.

Third, several of the said markets could import much more from Vietnam, including traditional markets (former socialist nations) and new markets (Latin America, African countries, Australian (except Australia).

Fourth, among the 200 countries and territories that have trade relations with Vietnam, Vietnam always has a trade surplus position with 159 countries, including the US, Australia, the UK, the Philippines, Germany and Belgium. Meanwhile, Vietnam always has trade deficit with 47 countries and territories, including Taiwan, Republic of Korea, China, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Switzerland, India and Kuwait.

The trade gap mostly occurs with nearby markets, not markets of source technologies, while the trade surplus occurs mainly with faraway markets, the source technology markets.

About the Author:  

Christopher W. Runckel, a former senior US diplomat who served in many counties in Asia, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark Law School. He served as Deputy General Counsel of President Gerald Ford’s Presidential Clemency Board. Mr. Runckel is the principal and founder of Runckel & Associates, a Portland, Oregon based consulting company that assists businesses expand business opportunities in Asia. (www.business-in-asia.com)

Until April of 1999, Mr. Runckel was Minister-Counselor of the US Embassy in Beijing, China. Mr. Runckel lived and worked in Thailand for over six years. He was the first permanently assigned U.S. diplomat to return to Vietnam after the Vietnam War. In 1997, he was awarded the U.S. Department of States highest award for service, the Distinguished Honor Award, for his contribution to improving U.S.-Vietnam relations. Mr. Runckel is one of only two non-Ambassadors to receive this award in the 200-year history of the U.S. diplomatic service.

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