Vietnam 2019 trade surplus $11.12 billion, beating $9.94 billion forecast: customs

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam recorded a trade surplus of $11.12 billion last year, widening from a surplus of $6.8 billion in 2018, customs data released on Monday showed, with smartphones, garments and electronic home appliances among the largest export earners.

Exports in 2019 rose 8.4% to $264.189 billion, while imports rose 6.8% to $253.071 billion, the Customs Department said in a statement.

Key imports were electronics and machinery, the department said.

Vietnam's exports of smartphones and spare parts, mostly produced by Samsung Electronics 005930.KS, rose 4.4% last year to $51.38 billion, the data showed.

In December, Vietnam’s exports fell 1.0% from November to $22.56 billion, while imports were up 4.5% at $22.30 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of $259 million.

The General Statistics Office late last month forecast the 2019 trade surplus at $9.94 billion, and December’s trade deficit at $1 billion.

Monday’s data also showed Vietnam’s trade surplus with the United States, Vietnam’s largest export market, widened to $46.98 billion last year from $34.87 billion a year earlier.

Vietnam is at risk of being labeled a currency manipulator by the U.S. because of its trade surplus with the U.S., a highly positive current account balance and because its central bank has been quite active in terms of net foreign exchange purchases.

Vietnam has been seeking to import more U.S. goods to help narrow the trade gap following threats by President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on its products amid the Sino-U.S. trade war.

Vietnam’s trade deficit with China rose to $34.04 billion last year from $24.15 billion a year earlier. Vietnam relies on China, its largest trading partner, for materials and equipment for its labor-intensive manufacturing.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Nick Macfie