October 3, 2014 / 6:27 AM / 5 years ago

Vietnam sees 2014 trade surplus of $1.5 bln on stronger exports

HANOI, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Growth in exports driven by manufacturing could give Vietnam a trade surplus of $1.5 billion this year, far surpassing its forecast of $500 million in July, according to the country’s trade ministry.

An annual surplus would be the third in a row for Vietnam, which posted its first in two decades in 2012, with cellphones and textiles continuing to bolster an economy constrained in the past few years by high levels of bad debt and weak consumer spending.

Vietnam’s exports this year are likely to touch $148 billion, surpassing the annual target of $145.4 billion, and an increase of 12 percent from 2013, the ministry of industry and trade said on its website late on Thursday (www.moit.gov.vn).

Imports for 2014 may rise at a slower pace of 11 percent to $146.5 billion, the ministry said.

Despite structural weaknesses in its economy and the slow pace of banking reforms, privatisation and regulation, Vietnam remains a draw for multinational firms, including Microsoft and Intel, due to lower wages than China and the prospect of tariff-free exports to the European Union, the United States and Japan once a raft of trade deals go through.

The ministry expected exports to grow faster in the fourth quarter, having increased more than 14 percent to $109.6 billion during January-September from the same period last year. Imports were up 11 percent at $107.2 billion in that period.

Chemical exports outperformed other sectors, surging 71 percent in the past nine months, while exports of cellphones from firms like Samsung Electronics, climbed 10 percent to $17 billion.

Textiles and garments, which includes Adidas, H & M Hennes & Mauritz and Inditex’s Zara, rose 19 percent, netting more than $15 billion in the first nine months.

Most economists see a stable outlook for Vietnam this year, with faster manufacturing expansion in September spurring third-quarter economic growth of 6.2 percent, the quickest since the end of 2010. (Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Martin Petty and Prateek Chatterjee)

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