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Vietnam Table of Contents


Decentralization of Trade

During the 1980s, there were variations in the level of decentralization of foreign trade that the government was willing to permit. A policy of giving local governments and export companies greater autonomy in making contractual and credit arrangements with foreign businesses and government organizations was attempted in 1981 without much success but was endorsed by the Sixth National Party Congress in December 1986. Decentralization was blocked initially by Hanoi's desire to bring the economically livelier southern region of the country, with its latent market-economy orientation, under fuller economic and political control. Such control--exemplified by the 1983 crackdown on the ethnic Chinese commercial community in Ho Chi Minh City--sometimes took precedence over trade promotion. In early 1987, however, city officials reportedly were again encouraging local companies to engage freely in foreign trade, joint ventures, acquisition of technology, and foreign currency borrowing. Provinces, as early as 1986, were permitted to set their own trade regulations and develop export strategies in order to draw sufficient revenue to pay for imports needed to fulfill provincial plan targets.

Some twenty-seven state trading corporations and twenty-two local trading companies conducted business directly or indirectly with companies abroad during the 1980s, either producing export goods or purchasing them from suppliers. Imexco, the central umbrella organization, handled general administrative matters, leaving detailed operations to specialized corporations such as Agrexport and Vegetexco (foodstuffs and animal products); Maranimex (marine products); Naforimex (forest products); and Machineimport and Technoimport (machinery, plants, and equipment). Two specialized corporations, the Vietnam Foreign Trade Corporation and the Vietnam Ocean Shipping Agency, administered all sea transport and cargo handling, respectively. The Soviet-Vietnamese joint venture Vietsovpetro conducted offshore petroleum exploration.

In their day-to-day operations, the specialized trading corporations independently arranged contracts with producers, coordinated in-country transportation, and even designed packaging (for example, of fresh fruit or marine products) to improve freshness and quality control. The Number One Frozen Seafood Export Company, a highly profitable corporation, regularly sent its officials abroad to negotiate trade contracts for its popular frozen prawns and other seafood. In 1986 the company reportedly earned a profit of around US$17 million, chiefly in trade with Japan and Hong Kong (see table 10, Appendix A).

Data as of December 1987