Vietnam trade deficit eases in first quarter

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Vietnam's trade deficit eased slightly in the first three months of 2011, official estimates showed Friday, in a boost for the government as it battles to stabilize its economy.

The deficit is forecast at US$3.03 billion in the January-March period, against $3.43 billion for the same quarter last year, the General Statistics Office (GSO) said.

Compared with the first quarter of 2010 exports rose 33.7 percent to $19.25 billion, while imports gained 23.8 percent to $22.3 billion, the GSO said.

Last year's trade deficit was estimated at $12.4 billion and the government has set a target that this year's figure should not exceed 18 percent of export revenues.

"Things are on track and I think that we will be able to meet this target," Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Thanh Bien told Dow Jones Newswires.

The data come after the State Bank of Vietnam in February devalued the dong 9.3 percent in a bid to narrow the trade gap, while it has also increased interest rates to tame inflation, which is estimated to a two-year high 13.9 percent this month.

The fall in the trade deficit is "very small" and the impact of the devaluation the largest in years is not expected to be felt until later months, said Deepak Mishra, lead economist at the World Bank in Hanoi.

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