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Vietnam Table of Contents


Soviet Union

Vietnamese trade with the Soviet Union was strongly influenced by aid, trade, and joint planning agreements associated with Vietnam's Third Five-Year Plan. Imports of oil and petroleum products, for example, which had averaged less than 9 percent of total imports from the Soviet Union from 1975 through 1980, increased to an annual average of 33 percent of imports between 1981 and 1985. This change followed a pattern in which the Soviet Union provided oil-exploration equipment and technical assistance against future recoveries while providing for Vietnamese fuel consumption in the meantime (see fig. 12).

Machinery and equipment deliveries, averaging 45 percent of Vietnamese imports from the Soviet Union between 1975 and 1980, were important because they were intended for Soviet assisted hydropower, coal mining, and oil exploration projects. Other major, regularly repeated Vietnamese purchases from 1975 through 1986 included rolled steel and cotton fiber.

Wheat and wheat flour imports from the Soviet Union, necessary because of repeated crop failures in the late 1970s, dropped to negligible amounts in the 1980s. Soviet shipments of chemical fertilizers (principally granular urea) beginning in 1981 appeared to be synchronized with the Third Five-Year Plan's stress on improving agricultural production.

Soviet deliveries for some projects occasionally spanned two planning periods; deliveries for other projects were completed within short intervals. Shipments of agricultural and forestry equipment, for example, peaked for a short period in 1979 and 1980, while deliveries of materials for two InterSputnik Lotus telecommunications ground stations began in 1979 and continued at substantial levels through 1984 before tapering off once installation work was completed in 1985.

According to the joint Soviet-Vietnamese trade agreement of 1981, bilateral trade was to more than double over the period of the Third Five-Year Plan. The Soviet Union planned to import more Vietnamese agricultural products in exchange for increased Vietnamese imports of Soviet oil, vehicles, metals, construction equipment, and fertilizers. Although Vietnam's exports failed to keep pace with projections, gains were reported in such categories as clothing, household goods, handicrafts, fruits and vegetables, pharmaceuticals, and raw rubber. Vietnamese production and export shortfalls, coupled with a persistent deficit that required substantial subsidies, did not preclude the Soviet Union's deriving some benefit from the two-way trade. For example, shipments of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, chiefly to the Soviet Far East, ranked fourth in recorded imports from Vietnam and were favorably reported in Soviet publications. The Soviet Union also saved valuable foreign exchange by purchasing some products, such as rubber, from Vietnam instead of from other countries. Rubber sent to the Soviet Union remained an important part--some 6.5 percent annually--of Vietnam's total exports. Soviet assistance provided during the Second Five-Year Plan to a 2,000 hectare plantation managed by the Phu Rieng Rubber Company in Song Be Province suggested that preserving the long-term development of this important rubber source may have been a critical Soviet concern. Finally, Vietnamese vodka shipments to the Soviet Union enabled the Soviet Union to increase exports of its own higher quality product to the hard-currency markets of the West.

The Soviet-Vietnamese trade plan additionally included Vietnamese exports of nonferrous metals, although according to its practice of some years the Soviet Union did not report transactions in this category. In 1983 the Soviet Union claimed that Soviet-assisted projects, such as the Tinh Tuc tin mine in Cao Bang Province, accounted for 100 percent of Vietnam's tin production.

Data as of December 1987