Vietnam, China work to boost bilateral trade to US$100 billion mark

Wednesday, 2018-07-25 10:37:45
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Vegetables and fruits from Vietnam are the main export items to China.
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NDO – For years, China has consistently been Vietnam's largest trading partner and its second largest export market. To realise the US$100 billion mark in bilateral trade, the two sides should develop flexible mechanisms to promote trade promotion and support enterprises in cross-border trade.

US$100 billion milestone to be set in 2018?

China is the largest market for many Vietnamese products and goods. Notably, the neighbouring country is the largest market for Vietnamese fruits and vegetables, accounting for 74% of its total fruit and vegetable export turnover, reaching US$1.47 billion, up 17.8% over the same period last year. With a high market volume and increased demand, China is importing most of the fruits from its neighbor, such as lychees, longan, watermelon, dragon fruits and mango.

In the opposite direction, Vietnam is importing large quantities of Chinese goods. At a recent conference in Lao Cai province on boosting the trade of agricultural products, fruits and seafood with China, Le Ngoc Hung, Vice Chairman of Lao Cai People's Committee, said that Vietnam-China bilateral trade turnover has a strong average growth rate of more than 20% per year in recent years. Particularly for Lao Cai, in the first six months this year, the total trade turnover through the border gates in the province reached US$1.55 billion, up 29% over the same period in 2017.

For the first half of 2018, two-way trade turnover reached US$47.7 billion, of which, export turnover from Vietnam to China reached US$16.63 billion, up 28%, while imports from China hit US$31.08 billion, up 15.6%.

Huang Shan from China’s Yunnan province's Department of Commerce affirmed that Vietnam has maintained its position as the second largest trading partner of the Chinese province. In the first five months of 2018, two-way trade between Vietnam and Yunnan reached US$1.84 billion, an increase of 75.8% over the same period last year.

In that period, Yunnan imported US$920 million worth of goods from Vietnam and exported the same value of US$920 million to the country. An important factor promoting the commercial relationship between Yunnan and Vietnam is that the two countries signed a border trade agreement, while trade promotion organisations and businesses of both sides have consistently strengthened exchange and trade connection activities.

With the promising growth rate in recent years, it is predicted that in 2018, Vietnam-China bilateral trade will reach US$100 billion and China will be the first trading partner of Vietnam to set this record benchmark.

Increasing the efficiency of trading activities

Trucks carry dragon fruit exported to China via Lao Cai International Border Gate. (Photo: NDO)

However, trading activities, especially border trade between Vietnam and China, still face difficulties. Do Truong Giang, Head of Lao Cai provincial Department of Industry and Trade said that the mechanism and policies related to import-export management and border trade between Vietnam and China have some differences, while the infrastructure for import and export activities has not met the growing demand. Importers and exporters in the border provinces are mainly small and medium ones with limited financial capability and ability to engage in international trade. Meanwhile, the Chinese market increasingly demands higher standards, quality, quarantine, quotas and taxes for some imported items, making it difficult for Vietnamese enterprises.

Discussing his province’s experiences in exporting agricultural products, Tran Quang Tan, Head of Bac Giang provincial Department of Industry and Trade, said that Vietnamese agricultural products are highly seasonal, but most Chinese traders do not sign official contracts with local suppliers, leading to low stability and exposing them to risks. The traffic infrastructure around the border gates has improved, but the goods checkpoints of both countries have not really met the requirements for a large volume of goods, leading to congestion at some gates when a high volume passes in a short time.

A representative from Nhan Hong Ngoc Viet Co., Ltd, specialising in fruit exports, suggested that to facilitate import-export activities, functional agencies (customs, border guard, and quarantine units) should connect closely to guide enterprises and handle administrative procedures quickly, ensuring the legal status and avoiding unnecessary risks.

In addition, businesses need to improve their proactiveness in trade, as well as updating market information and new regulations on product quality and consumer tastes for each locality in China. It is also necessary to improve product competitiveness, focusing on price, quality and type, while deploying broader trade promotion activities in China. They should also pay particular attention to copyright and trademarks, especially with the traditional famous products. On the other hand, there should be measures to restrict the differential prices in unofficial trading by Chinese traders.

Minister of Industry and Trade, Tran Tuan Anh, emphasised that in the context of fierce competition, the important solution to conquering the Chinese market is to constantly improve the quality of products, while developing appropriate plans to surmount this market.

The ministry will continue coordinating with related ministries and agencies to circulate market information among associations and import-export enterprises regarding the content of commitments in the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA), the WTO and other bilateral trade agreements. The ministry will also direct its functional units to provide timely information on markets, commodities and traders to help Vietnamese enterprises actively promote exports to their neighbouring market.