10:15 | 31/01/2017 Trade
(VEN) - Export-import activities recorded many milestones in 2016, such as the high trade surplus and positive growth in the agricultural, forestry and fishery sector, despite failing to achieve the 10-percent export growth target set out by the National Assembly. With the goal of sustainable growth, exports in 2017 will focus on strong commodities.
Data compiled by the General Department of Vietnam Customs indicate that the country’s export turnover in the first 11 months of 2016 reached more than US$159.94 billion, an increase of 7.8 percent compared to a year ago. Meanwhile, import turnover stood at over US$156.96 billion, a year-on-year increase of 3.7 percent.
According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Agency of Foreign Trade, total export turnover in 2016 was estimated to have grown eight percent to US$178 billion, while total import turnover reached an estimated US$176 billion. As a result, the trade surplus could total around US$2 billion.
Economists said that Vietnam’s export-import activities maintained a steady growth throughout the year, reflecting major government efforts in light of the unfavorable economic conditions of 2016. Although the estimated export growth of eight percent was equivalent to the 2015 figure, this is considered an achievement given that many countries, such as China and Japan, recorded negative growth.
The export structure was also streamlined in the direction of rapidly increasing the percentage of processed industrial products, which currently account for almost 80 percent of Vietnam’s total export revenues.
But many key Vietnamese exports also witnessed a decline in volume and value in 2016. For example, the garment and textile sector recorded growth of around five percent in 2016, lower than that of more than 10 percent in recent years. Telephones and accessories also saw growth of about 10 percent, lower than that of 30 percent in 2015. Although recording a positive growth of around six percent in 2016, agricultural, forestry and fishery exports remained dependent on volume rather than value.
While several key agricultural exports saw a drop, pepper maintained a leading position, and fruit and vegetables became a highlight in the past year’s export picture with a turnover of more than US$2 billion.
Top quality demands
In 2017, ministries and departments will focus on exports of strong commodities, especially in the group of agricultural, forestry and fishery products. Tran Thanh Hai, the deputy general director of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Agency of Foreign Trade, said that state management agencies, associations and businesses are particularly interested in medium and long-term solutions to maintain stable exports of agricultural, forestry and fishery products.
The state has to redefine the direction of the export growth with a focus on quality and added-value, rather than quantity. Huynh The Nang, the chairman of the Vietnam Food Association, has proposed reducing the rice export volume to two or three million tonnes a year instead of seven or eight million. He added that Vietnam’s largest rice export market remains China, which has adopted quality control policies. In addition, the world market is also demanding high-quality rice at competitive prices. Therefore, the Vietnamese rice sector needs to reorganize production.
Truong Dinh Hoe, the general secretary of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, said that seafood exports in 2017, especially of the mainstays of Tra fish and shrimp, need to focus on the high-quality segment.
According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, in addition to market expansion, Vietnam’s strong commodities need to dominate the market. Moreover, Vietnam should determine to participate in important phases in the global value chain that yield maximum benefit and generate the most value. Distribution, branding and product development provide great values in international trade. Therefore, businesses need to be restructured to be able to participate in those phases.
Tran Thanh Hai, the deputy general director of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Agency of Foreign Trade, said that the
opportunities for export growth in 2017 are relatively large thanks to the signing and effectuation of many free trade
agreements. Businesses should make careful preparations to seize opportunities.