The World Trade Organization (WTO) recently released its “World Trade 2016 and Prospects 2016” report. In it, the only nation to achieve “impressive” import-export growth in 2015 was a surprising Southeast Asian nation: Vietnam.
The report analyzed the performance of 30 of the leading import-export economies of the world that are members of the WTO. None of the other nations reviewed showed results for import-export growth last year that were as high as Vietnam’s.
The report and its unusual findings were announced last week by WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo. According to the report, Vietnam’s export trade soared by 7.9% in 2015, reaching $162 billion (U.S.). Similarly, the Southeast Asian nation’s imports surged by 12.3% to $166 billion (U.S.) last year.
By contrast, other major import-export economies, like China, Turkey, and Italy, actually had a diminishing rate of trade with other nations. In fact, the report painted a rather disappointing picture of global trade in 2015, with global trade dropping by 13.2% to just $16.5 trillion (U.S.).
The United States was – as usual – the world’s largest importer at $2.3 trillion, but this represented a 4.3% reduction. China came in second at $1.6 trillion, down by 14.2% from the previous year.
Several other Asian nations, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Myanmar, however, also had solid growth last year.
For 2016, Vietnam has set a goal of reaching $173 billion (U.S.) in exports. This would represent a 10% increase from 2015 – not impossible, but very ambitious. It also wishes to hold down its trade deficit, reducing it to 5%.
Some economists believe Vietnam may be on track to reach these targets, ambitious though they may be, due to recently entering into several free trade agreements. These agreements should bring some additional investment into the nation, while opening up opportunities for much more liberal import and export traffic through its economy.
Vietnam seeks to make gains this year in key industries and product areas. Of particular interest are electronics, footwear, textiles, and apparel. While global demand has been somewhat weaker than normal due to slowing economic conditions around the world, growth in these markets has been stronger than others, creating strong opportunities for Vietnam to reach its lofty goals.
Of course, Vietnam’s ambitions are set against the backdrop of a global economy in which the World Trade Organization recently downgraded its earlier prediction of 3.6% trade growth to just 2.8%.