An export growth of 14.5 per cent to US$203 billion is expected this year. However, export growth focused on increasing volumes cannot deliver in the long run, Trần Thanh Hải, deputy head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Import-Export Department, tells the Vietnam News Agency.
Export value of vegetables and fruits saw the highest growth in agricultural products to reach US$2.35 billion in the first eight months of 2017. Imports of these same produce also increased strongly, by 93.7 per cent, for $1.02 billion. Why does Việt Nam import large volumes of vegetables and fruits?
Agricultural products are special commodities that depend on the weather and input materials like plant varieties and fertilizer. Meanwhile, households remain the main unit of agricultural production in the country, hence it is on a small scale. There are some difficulties, therefore, in controlling quality, building brand and brand value and ensuring stable output.
Meanwhile, within the ASEAN bloc, the tariff on fruit and vegetable products is basically zero, giving Thailand a great advantage because it has well developed agriculture sector.
In addition, demand among Vietnamese consumers has increased and they want to have more choices.
Another important thing to note is that some local fruit traders have imported fruits from Thailand and re-exported them to the Chinese market, where there is large demand.
How have anti-dumping, anti-subsidy and other safeguard measures affected Việt Nam’s exports?
Việt Nam has recently suffered from several such measures. Some of the affected products include coloured galvanised steel, galvanised steel, polyester fibre and agricultural products like shrimp and pangasius fish. The safeguard measures taken by import markets have negated Việt Nam’s price advantage in a competitive market. They will push prices of Vietnamese export products up and make it difficult for us to compete. As a result Việt Nam’s exports to some countries like Turkey and India have dropped to the extent of losing the entire markets.
Meanwhile, we must know that these are WTO-sanctioned measures and respond accordingly with adjustments to domestic production. Vietnamese exporters have to adapt to these measures, especially in markets with significant potential.
In the first eight months of 2017, we have gained a trade surplus of billions of dollars, there are signs that this could return to a deficit. Why is this happening?
Imports are something that an economy demands, especially a fast-growing one like Việt Nam. When we look at the structure of import goods, we will see that Việt Nam has mainly imported raw materials for production. For instance, when we produce telephones, textiles and garments, we must import material and all kinds of accessories. Increasing imports is unavoidable.
At present, trade deficit is not a large part of trade activities in general. The Ministry of Industry and Trade is seeing that Việt Nam has maintained trade balance at a reasonable level.
What import and export trends do you see towards the end of the year? What are the products that will do well in exports?
At present, Việt Nam has experienced stable export growth in the processing industry, including computer and computer components, telephones and their components, transportation means, furniture and footwear. These products are expected to maintain a high growth rate towards the year-end.
In agriculture, aquatic products, including shrimp and fish, are likely to maintain steady growth as they have done in previous years.
Rice exports will increase further by the year-end after many years of decline because of pricing and other market difficulties. There has been a recovery since early this year, and this is set to continue.
Fruits and vegetables will also see stable export growth towards the end of the year.
What do we have to do for sustainable development of exports?
Việt Nam’s export growth has been based mostly on increasing volumes, and this has its limitations.
For the long term, we must improve the quality of export products, because behind this growth lies stable production, stable socio-economic development in remote areas and improvement of living standards. Therefore, the national orientation for developing imports and exports in the coming years will be based on these objectives.
Vietnamese firms have also, for the most part, processed products at low-value stages in the supply chain. Instead, they should focus on creating brand value for higher profits.
What does the Ministry of Industry and Trade do to help businesses develop markets and deal with export barriers?
The Ministry has implemented administrative reforms, with procedures in general and those related to trade activities in particular, to improve the business environment and create favourable conditions for companies.
After the National Assembly recently passed the Foreign Trade Administration Law, the ministry has been assigned the task of issuing decrees guiding implementation its implementation.