Vietnam trade deficit hits decade low in 2011

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Vietnam's trade deficit narrowed sharply to $9.5 billion in 2011, the lowest level in a decade, government estimates showed Wednesday, though concerns over the country's economic stability remain.

Exports rose 33.3 percent year-on-year to $96.2 billion, while imports were up 24.7 percent to $105.7 billion, the General Statistics Office (GSO) said in a preliminary report.

Last year the trade deficit stood at $12.4 billion, compared to $12.8 billion in 2009 and a record deficit of $17 billion in 2008.

"Vietnam's trade deficit has been controlled effectively due to measures taken by the government regarding monetary policies, public spending and limits on importing luxury goods," Industry and Trade Minister Vu Huy Hoang was quoted as saying this week by the Thanh Nien Daily.

But he warned the trade deficit could still climb to $13 billion in 2012.

The country's exports are primarily low-value added goods including garments, rice and coffee, while many of the imports are finished goods, machinery and equipment used in production.

Exports of crude oil were up 46 percent this year, while textile and garment exports rose 25 percent year-on-year, data showed.

Shifting away from a long-time focus on growth, the communist government announced in February steps to address double-digit inflation, dwindling foreign exchange reserves and downward pressure on its currency.

Measures included raising key interest rates, vowing to cut state spending, and ordering that growth in credit, or loans, stays below 20 percent.

Vietnam's inflation rate is among the world's highest, reaching 18.13 percent in December year-on-year with food costs the main driver, according to the GSO.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, quoted by Vietnam News last week, said controlling inflation will remain one of the top national priorities of the country's socio-economic development plan for 2012.

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