Thu, Mar 15, 2018 - Page 10 News List

US tariffs to have ‘minor’ effect on Vietnam

BALANCING ACT:Vietnam is diversifying its trade partners to boost exports, which would offset the effects of US tariffs on aluminum and steel imports

Bloomberg

Containers are pictured at Da Nang port in the central city of Da Nang, Vietnam, on June 16 last year.

Photo: AFP

Vietnam’s economy would this year grow faster than last year and would see only a “minor” impact from US President Donald Trump’s trade tariffs, a senior Vietnamese government official said.

The Southeast Asian nation’s government hopes to discuss “some sort of trade agreement” with the US — its biggest export market — to ease any barriers, Vietnamese National Financial Supervisory Commission head Truong Van Phuoc said.

Vietnam is plowing ahead on free-trade agreements with other countries as it seeks to maintain one of the world’s fastest economic growth rates, he said.

“The economy will grow faster this year with inflation being controllable and a pretty stable dong,” Phuoc, an adviser to Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, said in an interview in Hanoi.

“Trump’s recent import tariff changes will have a minor impact on Vietnam, as we are diversifying our markets and products to boost exports,” he said.

Trump last week slapped a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent levy on aluminum.

Vietnam’s steel exports to the US totaled US$104 million in the first two months of this year, more than doubling from a year earlier and about 16 percent of its total sales of the metal, according to data on the Vietnamese customs’ Web site.

Vietnam is seeking to progress free-trade agreements with other countries, including Japan and European nations, to help counter any effects from Trump’s tariffs.

Vietnam on Thursday last week joined 10 other countries to sign a trans-Pacific trade pact after Trump last year pulled out of the agreement.

Trump’s exit was seen as a blow to Vietnam, which exports about a fifth of its goods to the US.

However, a global trade recovery and Vietnam’s young, low-cost workforce have been magnets for international investors such as Nestle SA, which have opened factories there.

That is helping underpin an economy that expanded 6.81 percent last year and is estimated by Phuc to grow 7.4 percent in the first quarter of this year.

The government aims to maintain GDP growth at about 7 percent, Phuoc said.

“Vietnam still has a lot of room to grow,” Phuoc said. “The government is taking solid steps to boost private companies, such as significantly reducing the number of licenses, helping businesses to cut costs by getting permits faster and more importantly, boosting investors’ confidence by dramatically intensifying its corruption fight.”

To help the economy counter headwinds from rising protectionism in the US and other markets, the Vietnamese prime minister has asked ministries to closely watch international markets and enforce plans to ensure government economic targets would be reached this year, Phuoc said.

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