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March 24, 2009

Vietnam upbeat over trade surplus in Q1

Vietnam expects a trade surplus of nearly $1.65 billion in the first three months of 2009 due to a sharp decline in imports, a state-run online newspaper quoted the Ministry of Industry and Trade as saying.

Exports in the first quarter were estimated to have edged up only 2.4 percent compared with the same period last year to $13.48 billion while imports were estimated to have plunged 45 percent to $11.83 billion, the VietnamNet ( quoted a ministry report as saying on Monday.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade report said exports in March alone were estimated to fall 2.8 percent from a year ago to $4.7 billion while imports would drop more than 47 percent to $4.3 billion, leaving a monthly surplus of $400 million.

The report also said the reason exports rose in the January-March period was because of a record export of gold and precious stones of $2.29 billion, offsetting sharp declines in the exports of other traditional items such as garments, textiles and crude oil.

Last month, the central bank relaxed a ban on gold exports to allow some traders to re-export the precious metal to take advantage of high prices.

The Vietnam Gold Business Association has said gold exports in February alone totalled about $800 million.

Late last week, planning minister Vo Hong Phuc said the economy was estimated to grow at 3.1 percent in the first quarter, versus 7.4 percent in the same period last year.

Hanoi still projects annual growth of 6.5 percent this year after a slowdown to 6.2 percent in 2008 from 8.5 percent in 2007. Many economists expect slower growth.

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