Vietnam eases reliance on Chinese products, but imports more from South Korea

VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnam’s biggest trade deficit is now with South Korea, followed by China. 


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According to the General Statistics Office (GSO), Vietnam’s export turnover to South Korea in the first half of 2016 reached $6.6 billion, an increase of 29 percent over the same period last year. 

Meanwhile, Vietnam imported $22.5 billion worth of products, an increase of 51.2 percent, a trade deficit of $15.9 billion. 

“This is unprecedented in our trade history,” said Nguyen Duc Thanh, director of the Vietnam Institute for Economic & Policy Research (VEPR).

Thanh said his research team discovered an increase in imports from South Korea two to three years ago.

South Korea became the biggest foreign direct investor in Vietnam and South Korean investors tended to bring Korean machines and equipment to their factories in Vietnam.

One year ago, a VEPR report said: “There is a growing tendency of shifting to import products from South Korea”. 

At that time, VEPR attributed this to several reasons. Vietnamese businesses did not want low-quality Chinese machines anymore, but wanted products with higher quality from more developed countries.

In addition, South Korea became the biggest foreign direct investor in Vietnam and South Korean investors tended to bring Korean machines and equipment to their factories in Vietnam.

“This will continue in the time to come,” Thanh said.

However, the economist emphasized the difference between the trade deficit with China and with South Korea. The imports from China are mostly common products because China is a global production base.

China is not a big foreign direct investor in Vietnam, but Chinese machines and equipment are still imported to Vietnam in large quantities, as 80 percent of EPC contracts are assigned to Chinese contractors.

Meanwhile, the trade deficit is associated with the South Korean strong investment in Vietnam. 

A report from KOTRA (Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agenc0y released in early June showed that since 1988, South Korean businesses had invested $50.5 billion in Vietnam, which accounts for 30.8 percent of total FDI (foreign direct investment) capital. At least 71 percent of the capital has been poured into the manufacturing sector.

Thanh emphasized the role of Samsung, the ups and downs of which can change important indexes of the Vietnamese economy.

Pham Chi Lan, an economist, while commenting that the increased imports from South Korea will help ease reliance on Chinese imports, has expressed concern that this could be a hurdle to the development of Vietnamese businesses.

“China could only make products with lower or equal quality with Vietnam’s. South Korean products are better,” Lan said, adding that the trade deficit with South Korea needs thorough consideration.


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Kim Chi

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