|A woman harvesting coffee in central Quang Tri Province's Huong Hoa District. Coffee is among the key export products of Viet Nam. — VNA/VNS Photo Ho Cau
by Xuan Huong
HCM CITY (VNS)— Despite the continuing difficulties in the domestic and overseas markets, Viet Nam's exports were robust in the first quarter, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
In the period export revenues topped US$29.69 billion, a year-on-year increase of 19.7 per cent.
Speaking at a meeting in HCM City last Friday to review the export performance, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh said most key export items saw growth.
Ten items, including seafood; coffee; footwear; and computers, mobile phones, and their parts, achieved exports of more than $1 billion, he said.
Export of fuel and minerals was down while that of processed industrial goods was up.
The former was worth $2.6 billion, accounting for 8.8 per cent of exports and down 1.7 per cent year-on-year.
Exports of industrial goods were worth $20.4 billion, accounting for 75.8 per cent of the total and up 30 per cent.
Exports of farm and forestry produce and seafood topped $4.7 billion, or 15.9 per cent of total exports, with many agricultural goods like rice, cashew, and seafood seeing an increase in volume but a drop in value due to a fall in prices.
Domestic firms saw their exports double but foreign companies remained key players, accounting for 58.5 per cent of export revenues.
Asia, the EU, and the US were the key markets for Vietnamese goods.
The deputy minister and other participants agreed that exporters would continue to face difficulties for some time yet.
Most key export markets had their own problems – like the EU's debt crisis and slow economic growth in many other countries.
"Importing countries increasingly apply trade barriers, causing even more difficulties for Vietnamese firms that were already suffering due to fierce competition from foreign rivals," he said.
He cited the examples of some Southeast Asian countries that try to keep out Vietnamese steel products, South American nations that act against leather shoes, and the US, which slaps punitive tariffs on shrimp.
At home, the companies face challenges like sluggish demand and smuggled and fake goods, he said.
Many delegates pointed out that bank credit remains expensive compared to other countries despite the recent reduction in interest rates, affecting the competitiveness of Vietnamese businesses.
To meet the year's targeted export growth of 10 per cent, Anh said his ministry would work to resolve the hardships faced by enterprises so that export growth could be maintained.
"The ministry will accelerate negotiation for free trade agreements with major economic partners around the world to bring more export advantages to industries like garment and textiles, footwear, processing, and manufacturing."
It would improve the flow of market information to help businesses make plans to penetrate key export markets.
Le Phuoc Vu, representative of the Viet Nam Steel Association, urged the ministry to quickly come out with industrial standards and technical barriers to prevent sub-standard goods from entering the Vietnamese market.
The director of the city Department of Industry and Trade, Huynh Khanh Hiep, called on the ministry to help firms in the city's export processing zones and industrial parks take part in the country's trade promotion programmes.
Many business associations called on the Government to reschedule their loans to help them tide over the current difficulty.
They also urged relevant agencies to strengthen oversight of transfer pricing by foreign firms to avoid tax losses and ensure a fair business environment — VNS