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Vietnam Table of Contents


Direction and Composition of Trade

Trading patterns from 1978 through 1986 reflected the growing importance of Vietnam's relationship with Comecon and its weakening ties with major Western economies and noncommunist regional trading partners. Total trade with non-Comecon countries peaked at a little more than US$1 billion in 1978, dropped to less than US$700 million in 1982 and 1983, then averaged some US$850 million per year through 1986 (all dollar figures are given in terms of 1987 conversion rates). Two-way trade with the Soviet Union, that totaled about US$550 million in 1977, reached US$1.2 billion in 1981. This trade, which averaged some 43 percent of total trade from 1977 through 1980, accounted for about 64 percent of the total during the period of the Third Five-Year Plan. According to export plans announced by the Sixth National Party Congress in December 1986, two-way trade with the Soviet Union would continue to account for the major share of the country's foreign trade under the Fourth Five-Year Plan (see table 11, Appendix A).

In the 1980s, Vietnam's trade deficits with non-Comecon countries declined as the country's deficit with the Soviet Union grew. In 1977 and for several years thereafter, Vietnamese exports to its non-communist trade partners averaged less than 20 percent of the value of its imports from them. Exports to these countries increased slowly throughout the mid-1980s as imports declined. Most of the improvement resulted from substantive reductions in imports from eight major trading partners: Canada, Australia, France, Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Sweden, Britain, and India. The reduction in imports resulted as much from Vietnamese self restraint and loss of trade credit as from politically motivated boycotts on trade with Vietnam, such as that observed by a number of Western and Asian Nations including the United States and the member nations of ASEAN. Vietnam's exports to several Western countries, including West Germany and Britain, increased, however, and the Vietnamese occasionally showed small positive trade balances with Australia and Canada in the mid-1980s. By 1986 Vietnam had reduced its balance-of-payments deficit with non-Comecon countries to less than US$300 million (compared with more than US$700 million annually in the late 1970s) and was exporting products worth half the value of its import bill. Trade with the Soviet Union, however, followed the opposite pattern. Vietnamese exports were valued at an average of 49 percent of imports from the Soviet Union in 1977 and 1978, but at less than 25 percent of imports from 1981 through 1986.

Data as of December 1987