Economy, Foreign Trade
trade embargo, Communist countries, trade deficit, cash crops, economic assistance
During the French colonial period, Vietnamese foreign trade was characterized almost exclusively by the export of primary raw materials—such as rice, rubber, and other tropical products—and the import of manufactured goods from abroad, mainly from France. During the Vietnam War, both the North and South had a chronic imbalance in their balance of payments, as their sponsors pumped in military and economic assistance with little regard to their client’s ability to pay.
After reunification, these adverse conditions continued. Vietnam consistently ran a significant deficit in its trade relations with foreign countries. At first, the bulk of Vietnamese trade was with the Soviet Union and other Communist countries, which exported manufactured goods, food, and oil to Vietnam in return for cheap textile goods, cash crops, and maritime products. Trade was tightly controlled under the management of several state-owned trading corporations, each specializing in a particular commodity line. The United States imposed a trade embargo on North Vietnam in 1964 and all of Vietnam in 1976; this embargo was lifted in 1994.
Foreign trade has developed rapidly since the implementation of the doi moi reforms and the end of the U.S. embargo. Most foreign trade now takes place with other countries of Asia or with developed countries in the West. Exports have increased significantly, notably in the area of cash crops, oil, and rice. But imports of foreign technology and consumer goods have increased as well, and the trade deficit continues to be one of the country’s most serious problems. In 2000 the value of imports was estimated at $15.9 billion, while exports were estimated at $14.4 billion.
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