Vietnam widens ASEAN trade gap

By VnExpress   October 18, 2016 | 01:44 am PT
Vietnam widens ASEAN trade gap
Vietnam imports 23,900 cars worth $440 million from Thailand during the first nine months this year. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Quan
A taste for Thai fruit, vegetables and cars contributed to a $3.3 billion trade deficit.

Vietnam’s ASEAN trade deficit increased 9 nine percent from a year ago to more than $4.5 billion in the first nine months of 2016, according to customs figures.

The country exported over $12.2 billion worth of goods to fellow members of the Southeast Asian bloc while importing $16.7 billion during the same period, the Customs General Department reported. During the same period, Vietnam logged a trade deficit with every member of the trade bloc except Cambodia and the Philippines.

The country's trade deficit with Thailand reached $3.3 billion following major imports of 23,900 cars worth $440 million during the first nine months. Thailand supplied most of Vietnam's cars during the first four months of this year.

Significant Japanese investment made Thailand a major car manufacturing base for the region.

Thailand was the fourth-largest supplier of cars to Vietnam behind China, South Korea and India. However, a new ASEAN free trade agreement cut car import tariffs from 50 to 40 percent this year. The rate will continue to fall to 30 percent next year and zero in 2018.

Fruit and vegetable imports from Thailand also increased sharply, to more than $71 million in September alone, twice the value from the same period last year.

Vietnam also reported a $1.8 billion trade deficit with Singapore and $1.4 billion deficit with Malaysia, due to a major fuel importation.

The country racked up a $2.77 billion overall trade surplus in the first nine months of the year, thanks mainly to foreign companies investing in high-tech products.

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